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Discover the wellness rebel within.

Author: Chris (page 1 of 9)

Shakeology Alternative

Here’s a cheap and easy Shakeology alternative that won’t cost you the big bucks.

I’ll warn you, though – if you think it’s going to involve mixing up magical powders and crazy ingredients from far-flung corners of the world, you’re going to be disappointed.

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Body Beast Nutrition Tracker

Hey peeps!

I created a free Body Beast nutrition tracker for those of you following the program.

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Friday Share – Why studies don’t necessarily apply to you

This comes to be via Scientific American in an article titled “Psychological studies are not about you”. Author Jamil Zaki presents a wonderful explanation of how the interpretation of scientific studies points to trends within a population…and not necessarily within single individuals.

All those top ten lists you’ve been reading that purport to list behaviours that will make you happier, better-looking, or better in bed? Yup – there’s no guarantee that these pointers will actually have a positive effect on you and your behaviour; instead, it’s just an indication that in an average population, these actions tend to produce these results.

Does that mean you shouldn’t try them? Of course not – self-experimentation and constant change is always a good thing, especially for Wellness Rebels like me and you. But always be the one to draw your own conclusions based on your own observations — studies show this strategy does work 100% of the time. :D

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Childhood Obesity Rates Drop – But What’s the Link?

The most recent issue of The Lancet contains an interesting editorial discussing recent findings from the CDC that childhood obesity rates in low-income preschoolers are on the decline. You can check out the editorial here, or view the CDC report here.

Obesity Campaign Poster

The CDC report is an interesting read, not just for the results of their three-year study, but more for the comments they make at the end of the article, where they have a difficult time explaining why these numbers have decreased. They offer several suggestions, including the fact that the economic decline in the U.S. may have caused more families to become eligible for the low-income programs — which served as the source of the data — over the course of the study.

They also noted that the demographic mix of the participants shifted during the study, with the proportion of blacks growing while the proportion of whites and Hispanics shrunk. Whether this had any effect on the outcomes of the study is unknown.

Studying macrosociological issues such as “childhood obesity” must be an incredibly frustrating endeavour for researchers, as there are just too many variables at play for anyone to draw solid findings from the data they’ve analyzed. Things from intervention programs that vary from state to state, to global economic issues, to increased prevalence of breastfeeding of infants (and the programs that promote this behaviour) all play a role in affecting the outcome of studies like this.

But sometimes hand waving results like this are enough. (Yes, it even shocks me to say that.) I don’t think that big, BIG, issues like obesity respond to one or two variables; there’s no silver bullet to solve a problems on this scale. I think sometimes you need to take a broad look at the results of everything that is being done to combat this problem, and say “yes, we’re generally headed in the right direction” and leave it at that.

The problem with getting too specific and drilling too far into the results leads people to fall into survivorship bias, where they focus too much on the regions that posted decreases to discover what they’re doing right — instead of focusing on the regions that posted increases to find out what they’re doing wrong.

The assumption is that the regions posting decreases in childhood obesity risk are taking the proper steps to achieve these promising results — but the possibility exists that it’s more a case that they’re really seeing these results by not doing the same things as the regions who posted increases.

For instance, there may have been a general movement of some participants from an area with insufficient food systems, such as inner city areas plagued with corner stores and bodegas, to an area with better delivery and promotion of healthier foods, such as a group housing district 30 minutes away that has a proper grocery store within walking distance. Access to healthy food is something that is incredibly difficult to measure in a study such as this, but it’s one key factor in predicting — and controlling — obesity rates.

However, these sort of details fall far outside of the scope of a study like this, so it’s really best to look at this with a macro view and say “Okay, we have seen an overall decline based on everything we are currently doing for at-risk groups. Let’s either stay the course, or increase our efforts slightly, and then see what happens in another three years.” To take anything more specific from a broad study like this would be folly.

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One Weird Trick to Suck You In – Friday Share

tip-of-a-flat-belly-NEW3Hey peeps!

The fantastic site Boing Boing brought this little article to my attention, and I thought I’d put it up here as a neat Friday share:

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2013/07/how_one_weird_trick_conquered_the_internet_what_happens_when_you_click_on.single.html

It’s from Slate, and it details the experiences of a journalist who actually clicked through some of those “One weird trick…” ads that you see all over the place.

I admit, I’ve been curious as well about what all these “weird” tips are, so I’m glad that someone took the initiative to go behind the ads and deconstruct the marketing psychology contained within.

I think one point the author missed was that these ads also so successful becuase they prey on our insecurities: money, sex, and weight. I’ve seen a few of these ads before, especially when it comes to “make money blogging” schemes. The real secret? You don’t make money from blogging. You make money from selling shit. Just like these “weird tip” ads do.

Enjoy!

Tractivity Review

I love my gadgets. And I especially love fitness gadgets. So when the opportunity came along to try out the Tractivity activity sensor, I jumped at the chance.

What is Tractivity?

The Tractivity product has two parts. The first is the Tractivity sensor, which tracks your activity and movement throughout the day. The second part is the Tractivity Online website, which collects the data from the Tractivity sensor and shows you how you’re keeping up with your activity goals. I love anything that gives me more reason to fool around on the Internet!

The Unboxing

I love getting stuff in the mail. So as soon as a box came in the mail with “Tractivity” splashed over it, I eagerly tore it open and checked out the contents. My first thought was “Jeez, this thing is tiny!”

Tractivity Bundle Unboxing

The entire contents of the Tractivity Bundle. I love small!

 

The entire Tractivity product fits on one small card. That includes the Tractivity Sensor, the sensor lace clip, the sensor ankle band, and the USB sync dongle. How awesome is that? No crazy amount of overpackaging — just the basics. And I can fully recycle the card that it came on. It’s the little things that make me happy.

There’s a quick start guide included; and let me assure you, it’s definitely quick. I placed the battery in the Tractivity sensor, plugged in the USB stick, installed the Tractivity Connect software, and walked through the steps of creating my Tractivity Online account.

And like that, I was up and running. Well, technically, not running, as I was sitting in my office chair at the time. But that’s the next part of the story.

The Wearing

So I grabbed my trusty pair of running shoes, used the lace holder to clip the sensor onto the tongue of my shoe, and set out my running clothes for the next day, when I would arise bright-eyed and bushy-tailed early in the morning and go for my morning run.

At precisely 6:15 am the next morning, I got out of bed. Not exactly bright-eyed. Not exactly bushy-tailed. But early? Nailed that one.

To be honest, it was so early that I initially forgot that I had the Tractivity sensor on my shoe. But as I mounted the treadmill and bumped the speed up to something I could manage in my bleary-eyed state, I caught sight of the little purple sensor out of the corner of my eye. I realized that this little purple companion was now watching every step I make.

Just as guys suck in their stomach when a good-looking girl comes around the corner (oh, don’t lie, men, you know you do it), I picked up my pace on the treadmill and bumped the speed up by another 0.5 mph. Oh yeah — hardcore. I know. But I was going to impress the hell out of this little purple gadget even if it killed me.

ricky-gervais-sucking-in-stomach-gif

Ricky Gervais knows what I’m talking ’bout.

Halfway through the run, I bumped the incline up to 10%,  gave the Tractivity sensor a knowing wink and nod, and continued pounding away. Two minutes later, I dropped the incline back down to 3%, looked down at the sensor, and gasped, “Interval…hill…training. Trust…me.” The sensor said nothing. I think it was just being polite.

I figured a 35 minute run was enough time to impress my new purple friend, so I walked upstairs to my computer, fired up the Tractivity app, and wirelessly synced my sensor’s data to my online account. And there on the screen was a fantastic little graph, showing the distance I’d run that morning, the total number of steps, the total time I’d been active, and the calories I’d burned:

Tractivity Chart

I walk, I run, and the Tractivity sensor does all the hard work of keeping track of my activity.

HOW COOL IS THAT? I’m a huge proponent of tracking things related to personal health and wellness, but it’s super-awesome to have it done for you, automatically, in the background. All you need to do is sync your device from time to time, and POOF, your info is there to guilt you into moving more.

The Lace Clip vs. the Ankle Band

Believe it or not, I do have a 9-5 job where I need to show up once in a while. I don’t just sit around this site all day making cheap jokes and reviewing awesome products. So I had a bit of a conundrum when it came to putting the Tractivity sensor on my dress shoes. As nice as the purple is, it just looks a little out-of-place on a set of shiny black dress shoes.

An ankle band is included in the package, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to wear it all day. I can’t bear to wear a watch on my wrist all day, so I was doubtful that I could stand to have a bracelet hanging from my ankle all day. However, I tucked the Tractivity sensor into the little pocket on the ankle band, wrapped it around my ankle, and headed off to work.

Holy carp, peeps. This ankle band is INCREDIBLY comfortable. In fact, it was so comfortable, I totally forgot that I was wearing it until late that night when I was taking my socks off for bed. The band has a simple Velcro closure, and no matter what I’ve put it through — running, walking, or construction projects — it hasn’t come undone once.

 

Tractivity Ankle Band

You’ll hardly notice the Tractivity Ankle Band at all.

I find the band equally comfortable on bare skin as I do when it’s wrapped around socks; it never gets hot or uncomfortable. As an added bonus, it’s black, so that when I’m wearing it around the office, it blends in nicely with my black dress socks. Otherwise I might have people wondering if I’m under house arrest or something.

The Rewards

Motivation is a big thing for me. That’s why I was glad to see that Tractivity grants you “awards” based on milestones that you’ve achieved. You’ll get your first award at the 10km and 10,000 step mark, and every 10km or 10,000 steps after that. It’s a small thing, but for me it’s a big thing.

Tractivity Achievements

I don’t care if they’re just pixels on a screen; these rewards still feel great!

Sometimes I get a little frustrated on days where I don’t get out from behind my desk much. However, the milestone awards remind me that little efforts all add up, and that it’s the big-picture approach to wellness that is important. Plus it motivates me to get off my butt and move some more. :)

The Social Aspect

Tractivity has a great little challenge system built right in to the website. Each challenge is based on a well-known route around the world, ranging from a quick 5.3km jaunt around Toronto Island Park, to a 804.7-mile challenge representing the laps in the Indy 500, all the way to the Great Wall of China walk, which totals 21,196km of walking.

Tractivity Challenges

Gang up on your friends or work as a team – there’s challenge enough for everyone!

You can take the challenges solo, make a challenge a friendly race among friends, or even work collectively as a group and combine your distances to achieve a common goal. I think this was a great bit of planning on the part of the Tractivity folks. Some of us love to work out by ourselves, and others need the motivation and support of a group to keep them moving. Great job on that, guys.

The Store

If you just can’t get enough Tractivity in your life, then you should take a look at the Tractivity store. Here you can buy extra sensors, as you can have multiple sensors on all of your footwear and link separate sensors to the same Tractivity account. Apparently even if you forget and wear two sensors at the same time, the Tractivity Connect software recognizes this and takes the best minute-by-minute data from all of the sensors and combines them into one set of data. Neat.

Another great little offering is the set of Tractivity insoles. Not only are they great performance insoles, but they have a special recess on the bottom that can hold your Tractivity sensor nice and snug. So there’s no chance of losing your sensor, or forgetting to put it on your shoe — it’s always there. I haven’t tried out the insoles myself, but I hear they are damn comfortable.

The Bottom Line

Here’s why I love the Tractivity: it’s dead simple. You wear it and forget about it. It does one thing, and it does it well. There are other products out there that do a lot more, such as the Fitbit and the Nike+ FuelBand, but they’re a lot more complicated — and a lot more expensive. The Tractivity simply tracks my activity, charts it for me, and allows me to work on my goals solo, or in a group.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a little purple friend who’s been insisting that I get back on the treadmill.

Cheers,

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This is 200 Calories

Resident author and runner Cindy sent this to me, and I thought it was a great fun Friday share. My only nitpick is that the video doesn’t differentiate between kilocalories and calories; but the message is the same nonetheless.

Gym Free: Bodyweight Training by Mark Lauren – App Review

Hey peeps! If you’ve been looking for a sample of the Your Are Your Own Gym magic, but aren’t willing to shell out the three bucks to download the app, then “Gym Free: Bodyweight Training by Mark Lauren” just might be what you’re looking for.

This app, available for iPhone and iPad with Android support coming soon, provides you with two complete quick timed workouts at the Beginner and Intermediate levels. Simply choose the level at which you want to work out, choose the duration of your workout, then start working out. You’ll be taken through the paces of a typical YAYOG workout, with many of the classic Push, Pull, Legs and Core workouts that have earned this program the reputation it deserves.

Mark himself guides you through the workouts, and each exercise is accompanied by not only a full description of the steps in each exercise, but also a full HD video demonstrating the proper form and function of the exercise, as shown below:

BodyWeightTraining

It’s a great introduction to the fantastic workouts in the complete You Are Your Own Gym program. If you like what you see in ”Gym Free: Bodyweight Training by Mark Lauren”, then I would suggest that it would be worth your while to download the full app, or even buy the book that started the YAYOG craze for further background on the program, the history of Mark Lauren’s approach to fitness, as well as nutrition and safe workout guidelines that you just don’t get in the app.

Have you tried ”Gym Free: Bodyweight Training by Mark Lauren” already? Still not sure if you’d enjoy the full program? Leave a comment below – I love to chat with my readers!

Cheers,

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The First 20 Hours – Book Review

20hoursI love learning. Not like book learning, but real life skill acquisition, where you “learn as you go”. Those of you who know me have likely heard me mutter the phrase, “Teach you? No one taught me how to do this. I just learned it.” Yeah, I can be snarky sometimes. Continue reading

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us – Book Review

SaltSugarFat“Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” is the first book from Pulitzer-prize winning author and journalist Michael Moss. It’s a fascinating look at the politics, economics and demographic trends that shape our food culture, and the ways that big food companies capitalize on them. Continue reading

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