A Weight Loss How-To.

Most people want to lose at least a little weight.  Hopefully this will be helpful to someone.


The Basics - At the most basic level, weight is simply Calories in-Calories Out.  That is, more calories = more weight.  So in order to lower your weight, you will want to reduce your calories per day overall.  It's not simple enough to stop this post there though, so lets get started.

What *are* Calories?  If you just look at the nutrition information for any food it doesn't give you much of an idea.  Where all the normal parts of the label are broken down into different components (Fat, Protein, Carbs, Sodium etc...) Calories are the opposite.  Calories measure how much energy is released when a food is burned, which means it takes into account everything else that is in the food - It's the sum of everything in the food as far as energy goes.

That means that first of all, calories aren't bad.  You need calories in order to live.  Most people are just taking in too many of them.  So what's the best way to reduce your calories?  You can either lower your caloric intake or burn more calories through exercising.  Unless you're already very careful with what you eat, diet is the best way to reduce your calories.  This is simply because (as anyone that's ever watched the calorie meter on a cardio machine knows) taking in less calories is far easier than burning them off.  Of course, doing both is certainly optimal.

Before I explain what to look for in food, it's important to note why you have to *change* what you eat and not just stop eating.  The first reason should be fairly obvious, but it isn't for most people.  When you starve yourself you do lose weight, but the question is where is that weight coming from?  While some of the weight is certainly fat, a lot of the weight loss is also muscle loss.  Doing that completely goes against your self interest as muscle isn't what is making you 'Look bad,' and more importantly, because the more muscle you have the more calories your body burns at rest - while doing absolutely nothing, making it that much harder to keep weight off in the long run.  It just leads to more starving, a bad cycle.

The second reason you can't just stop eating food is because of what's commonly referred to as "Starvation Mode."  When your body realizes that it's not getting many calories it goes into Starvation Mode.  Basically what that means is it hoards as much fat as possible, and it lowers your metabolism - lowering your energy.  Evolutionarily speaking, this makes total sense.  In the infancy of our species food wasn't readily available like it is now.  So if someone were to go an extended period of time without food then keeping the metabolism high, burning lots of calories in the process, would be a very bad thing for survival.  So by starving yourself you lose lots of energy which in itself sucks, but it also makes exercising that much more difficult than it already is, and making it that much harder to lose weight in the long run.  Of course, your body hoarding fat also once again is completely counter productive to your actual goal.

"That makes a lot of sense Aaron!  But why fat?  Why doesn't the body turn all those extra calories into muscle and make me a monster!?"  Biology my friend :)

I'm sure you've all heard the expression, "Muscle weighs more than fat."  That's actually is completely true. Chemically Fat and Ethanol hold the most energy per mass.  Since Ethanol is alcohol, hoarding it would make survival...difficult.  Turning all the extra calories into muscle, while in this day in age would be incredibly cool, would be suicide for the human species before food was so readily available.  It would weigh us down far more, making it harder to catch prey while containing far less energy for us to live off of if food became scarce.

That brings us back to eating.  Since we can't starve ourselves to lose weight, how do we make sure the calories we're taking in don't turn to fat?  As I said earlier, at the basic level it's calorie in-calorie out.  If you burn more calories than you take in every day, you'll lose weight.  Losing weight isn't the true goal though, losing fat is, and that's where it gets more complicated.  As I also stated earlier, calories are a sum of everything else in the food.  So the goal is to eat foods that have the most beneficial calories.  That's why people say things like soda and bread are 'empty' calories.  They provide no beneficial nutrients, and it's been suggested that soda might actually deplete your bodies nutrients.

To make the most of your calories you have to understand what constitutes the majority of them.  The four biggest sources of calories are Sugar, Fat, Carbohydrates, and Protein.  Sugar contributes the least to calories of the four, but health-wise it's terrible for you so it's the best thing to cut first.  The less sugar the better.  That's pretty common knowledge, and after that is where most people have been misinformed.

Neither Carbohydrates nor fat are universally bad.  Our bodies need both to survive.  The simplified diagram of what to look for out of your calories is Protein > Carbohydrates > fat > sugar.  It's not exactly that simple though.  Good fats will be far better for weight loss than bad carbs and vice versa with good carbs vs. bad fats.  As far as fats go, saturated fats and trans fats should be avoided whenever possible, trans fats being the worst.  Unsaturated fats are good fats.  EFA's (Essential Fatty Acids) fall in this group.  EFA's can't be made by the body so must be gained from food.  Fish are a great source for them as well as many seeds and oils.  Bad carbohydrates are things like white rice, white bread, and other high starch foods.  Good carbs are from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (brown rice/bread etc..)

Protein is the best thing to get calories from.  In most cases, carbohydrates will make up the majority of your calories simply because they're so abundant in food, but the higher the protein in relation to them the better.  Protein takes more energy to break down than the other components which gives it an advantage right from the start.  Your body uses more energy (therefore more calories) to break it down than it would to break down the other things.  Protein is also very important for rebuilding muscles which makes eating right in combination with exercising that much more powerful.  Because protein is harder to break down it also stays in your stomach longer, making you feel fuller longer and want to eat less.

So the complicated version is Protein > Good Fats > Good Carbs > Bad Carbs > Bad Fats > Sugar.

Talking purely in calories still leaves off one major component though:  Fiber.  Ever wonder why high fiber foods have such low calories?  The reason is because our bodies can't break down fiber.  If our body can't break it down, it can't get calories from it.  Fiber is great for weight loss for a couple of reasons.  1.  It fills you up without adding calories.  2.  There are two kinds of fiber - Soluble and Non-Soluble.  Non-Soluble fiber helps with your bowl movements by pushing things along with it as it goes through the intestines.  That's why people say to eat more fiber if you're constipated.  Soluble fiber when dissolved actually binds to some fats, which then don't get digested and instead go right through with the fiber.  So it not only fills you up, but takes some fat away at the same time.

So fiber is great with a normal diet.  Since it can't be digested though, you can't get any nutrients from it.  That's why vegans and vegetarians have to be careful to make sure they don't become vitamin or nutrient deficient.


Note - If you have Diabetes, are severely overweight, or have a genetic disposition towards Diabetes (If you have closely-related family members with it) then you should be careful with taking in high quantities of protein as its hard on the kidneys.  A high GOOD carb and GOOD fat diet will probably better for your overall health if this is the case.

Note - High amounts of protein will cause your calcium to be lower.  It might be a good idea to include calcium in your diet as well, or to take a calcium supplement if you want to go the high-protein route.


My trip to Europe

Me and my mom recently went to Europe to visit my brother who is there for a semester abroad and to just check it out.  We went to Rome, Florence, and Austria (Austria, not Australia) in that order.

The first place we went to was my favorite place from the trip, Rome.  We met up with Andy at the hotel and went to see things.  The first thing we saw was the Coliseum.  From the outside you could see how massive it was, but inside you could see how incredible the building really was.  We were allowed to walk through most of it, but the upper areas were blocked off and so was underneath of the floor.  The floor was broken so that could stand on it fine on one side and the rest was gone so you could see into it.  The way it's passageways were set up you can easily understand how they say it could be filled in 15 minutes, and evacuated even faster.  Thinking about all the fights and naval battles that took place makes it that much more incredible. From the Coliseum we went around other Roman remains of buildings which were kind of cool to see, but I was really expecting more.

The middle walkway wasn't there when we went.

The next big thing we went to was the Pantheon.  The word pantheon means "All the gods", and that is what the Pantheon was built for.  The building is 142 feet from the base and also 142 feet high which turns into a perfect sphere at the top.  Right in the middle of the top there is a big hole where light pours into the building.  The hole is considered the "eye of the gods."  Almost 2000 years old now, the dome at the top is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome.  It was rebuilt in `126 AD and continued being for the ancient Roman gods until 609 when it was consecrated by the Roman Catholics to be a place of worship for them.  They changed lots of things, but there is still plenty left from it's original gods.


We also saw the Napoleon Museum which only had originals of everything in it.  It was kind of cool seeing all the actual paintings of him and his family, and different furniture of his among other things.

Probably my second favorite thing in Rome was the Trevi Fountain (The Coliseum being the first.)  The fountain shows Neptune riding a sea shell chariot being pulled by two horses - one is obedient while the other is being resistant.  The two horses symbolize the fluctuations of the sea.

We saw it at nighttime, which I think makes it look even cooler.

That's all for the places we saw, but we did some other things too.

At one of the restaurants we went to when we were there we made friends with the waiter.  We were joking around with him the whole time, and at the end of the meal he brought everyone free chocolate shots.

 There was also a guy advertising a club sprawl.  Me and Andy went to it that night.  It was 20 Euros per person and you got unlimited drinks for 3 hours and a t-shirt to go with it.  On my first time drinking I was with people all over the world.  There were people from Rome, Brazil, America, Australia, France, Denmark and probably more that I didn't know about.  All of the people were really cool and it was a fun time.  After it ended the night took a turn for the worse though when the buses that were to give us a ride back were stopped by the cops.  We had to walk around until `5:30-6 in the morning when the Metros opened back up so that we could get to the hotel.  We walked with a cool guy from Denmark and a girl from France that we had met at the pub crawl though so it wasn't too bad.  That was the start of having ridiculously sore feet for me though.

After Rome we went to Florence for a day.  We saw lots of nice looking churches, but the main thing we saw was Florence's main Cathedral.  It is a famous dome that you can go to the top of, which is over 400 steps to get up to.  At the top of the dome there is an awesome picture of a battle between angels and demons.  Among the pictures there are demons shoving fiery sticks up angels asses and eating them.  As well as angels spearing demons and all kinds of other cool things.  From the top of the dome you can also go on the outside of the building as well, which gives you an incredible view of the whole city.

We went shopping while in Florence because they have a giant marketplace for people to get things in, and you can haggle with all the salesmen.  Me and my brother got authentic Italian leather jackets while we were there, and they were made out of buffalo skin.  The guy showed us that they were high quality by trying to burn them with a lighter to no effect, and to scratch them with nail clippers, also to no effect.

After Florence we went to Austria.  On the train ride there we met a girl that translated for us and another man that spoke Italian and (from my understanding) Swiss German.  She spoke English great as well.  It made the several hour train ride much more bearable.  (Hi Ilaria!  :)

Once in Austria we first saw the Salzburg Fortress which was really cool.  It was a giant castle on top of a mountain which you had to take a train-like thing up to.  You could see the whole city from the top of it as well.  They had tons and tons of things inside it.  Some of my favorites were the old weaponry.  They had different sword and guns in cases to see.  They also had cannons still placed in the windows where they would have been shot.  Another display room had torture devices which I've read about before, they are all suited for the specific law the person broke.  It has some of the most excruciatingly painful things there that would destroy your different body parts.  It was pretty funny that they had a Chastity belt in the same area.  Though several women did die because of them, where they're parents lost the key or hid it and died before letting them out and they just kept growing.  There was also several things from Mozart in the castle, where he had worked there (Salzburg was his birthplace.)  They had the puppets from the sound of music.

We also saw the actual Mozart Museum.  It had lots of different letters that he had written, and information about his whole family.  It was placed in the actual house that he was born in.  They had furniture that was similar to his, but not the actual furniture he used.  They also had some of his original musical instruments.

Salzburg is very well known for its different churches, and we saw several of them while we were there.  Salzburg is the place that my brother had been staying for most of his time in Europe, so they knew the people that worked at the hostel we stayed in really well.  One of the guys that worked there gave us a nice tour of several of the churches.  He explained all the different paintings and sculptures which was pretty cool.  He went real in depth with different parts of the Catholic faith as well which was interesting, although most of you know my views on the subject.

While in Salzburg we also went to two different famous beer breweries.  The first we went to was Augustiner.  This would be my first time drinking beer, and I was drinking from supposedly one of the top 3 beer places in the world.  It wasn't bad, but I'm not really a beer person as of yet.  I don't know if I ever will be if I try to taste American beer now.  While there I got a really nice 1 Liter mug as a souvenir.  The next day we went to the Steigl brewery.  It went through the history of the beer and had all kinds of information about it and the methods of making it.  At the end of the tour they gave you 3 beer samples and a gift beer to take with you.

After the trip we had to fly back and the security was a pain in the ass.  After getting through security in Austria where we were checked twice but was still real fast we got to our airport area.  They had TSA there which asked pointless questions, but we got through and on to the flight.  When we got to America though we had to go through security again, and they made a giant deal of a snow globe because of the liquids inside of it....This being after we got through Germans searching us twice...We were the safest people on the planet.  So that took probably around an hour then we finally got to get on the next plane taking us back to WV.

All in all it was a really fun trip and I hope I get to travel more in the future.


My favorite quotes (part 2)

This section of quotes is all (anti)-religious based.  If you will be offended, skip this one.

 "To argue with a man who has renounced his reason is like giving medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”  - Stephen Roberts

"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." - Thomas Paine

"Where all men think alike, no one thinks very much." - Walter Lippmann

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - Philip K. Dick

"I was forced, through seeing the error of their foundation, to abandon all belief in every religion which had been taught to man. But my religious feelings were immediately replaced by the spirit of universal charity — not for a sect, or a party, or for a country or a colour — but for the human race, and with a real and ardent desire to do good." - Robert Owen

"I was dead for millions of years before I was born and it never inconvenienced me a bit." - Mark Twain

"There are things about organized religion which I resent. Christ is revered as the Prince of Peace, but more blood has been shed in His name than any other figure in history. You show me one step forward in the name of religion and I'll show you a hundred retrogressions. Remember, they were men of God who destroyed the educational treasures at Alexandria, who perpetrated the Inquisition in Spain, who burned the witches at Salem. Over 25,000 organized religions flourish on this planet, but the followers of each think all the others are miserably misguided and probably evil as well."  - Frank Sinatra

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."  - Carl Sagan.

"If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call into question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it — the life of that man is one long sin against mankind."
-W. K. Clifford

"There is a boundary to men's passions when they act from feeling; none when they are under the influence of imagination."
- Edmund Burke

"Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."
- Dennis Diderot

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  - Arthur C. Clarke

"Eskimo: "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?" Priest: "No, not if you did not know." Eskimo: "Then why did you tell me?"" - Annie Dillard

"If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane."  - Robert Green Ingersoll

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear."  - Thomas Jefferson

"When lip service to some mysterious deity permits bestiality on Wednesday and absolution on Sunday, cash me out." - Frank Sinatra

"If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed."  - Albert Einstein

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."  - Steven Weinburg

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

- Epicurus

"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one." - George Bernard Shaw

"Lighthouses are more helpful than churches." - Benjamin Franklin


My favorite quotes (part 1)

This will be the first list of several pages worth of quotes that I have found and enjoyed.

"Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'" - Isaac Asimov

 "You can change perceptions: Reality won't budge." - Geddy Lee

"Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears." - Marcus Aurelius

"The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves." - William Hazlitt

"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell

"True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it." - Karl Popper

"He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life."  - Muhammad Ali

"You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams." - Dr. Seuss
"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." - Buddha
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley
"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."
 - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes...Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
- Thomas Jefferson

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."  - Albert Einstein

"A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have."  - Barry Goldwater

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."  - Winston Churchill

"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence."  - Robert Frost

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle

"Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants."
- John W. Gardner

"Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism - how passionately I hate them!"  - Albert Einstein

"The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic."  Joseph Stalin

"A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." - Thomas Jefferson

"Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto." - Thomas Jefferson

"Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth." - John F. Kennedy

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." - Benjamin Frankin

"Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out." - Benjamin Franklin

"Each year one vicious habit discarded, in time might make the worst of us good." - Benjamin Franklin

"Experience is a dear teacher, but fools will learn at no other." - Benjamin Franklin
(AKA, learn from others mistakes)

"It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them." - Benjamin Franklin

"Wise men don't need advice. Fools won't take it." - Benjamin Franklin

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." - Thomas Jefferson

"An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it." - Orlando A. Battista

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits." - Albert Einstein

"I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." - Thomas Jefferson