Fit in Frederick

Beating Holiday Stress

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

No matter which holiday you celebrate this season, at least part of it revolves around food, family, presents, and social gatherings. These same traditions meant to cause joy, can impact some people in a negative way. When you stress over the holidays, even for a short period of time, it can impact you health. The body’s reaction to stress is the biological “fight or flight” response; with it comes a release of several hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. An increase of adrenaline ... read more


The Unfortunate Spread of Fat Shaming

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

By now you’ve probably heard about Maria Kang. She gained fifteen minutes of fame when her Facebook picture of went viral. It featured Kang in a skimpy outfit with her three children and the headline, “What’s Your Excuse?”

Last week she was at it again. She posted a Facebook rant about a lingerie company who asked plus-sized women to post photos of themselves in lingerie to show what “real women” look like. Her comments were deemed “hate speech”. Her profile was removed from Facebook for 48 hours; it remains unclear if it was because of her words or a technical error. Regardless, Kang is a well-known fitness enthusiast who uses the tactic of “fat shaming”.

Fat shaming is aimed at making obese people feel so bad about their bodies that they are forced to eat healthier, exercise, and lose weight.

In early October, a website that calls itself a “men’s rights” arena hosted their annual fat shaming week and posted articles on how to shame women about their body weight. One of the site’s writers claims it’s a push back against the “fat acceptance” movement.

It’s not Ethical

The internet is a free reign canvas for anyone to say whatever they want. It’s possible to experience backlash, but it’s also a guaranteed way to “go viral”. It’s possible that Kang, the author of Fat Shaming Week and others are just seeking fame (…and it’s working).

But, if they were attacking any other group of people, would it be allowed? If Kang was going after a certain race or if the website was attacking a religion or sexual orientation, it would not be tolerated. However, bullying the obese is still an accepted practice.

It Doesn’t Work

The science shows all those hateful words don’t even work; they just make the problem worse. A large scale study spanning four years and consisting of over 6,000 people found someone was two and half times more likely to become obese if they experienced weight discrimination. If he/she was obese at the beginning of the study and experienced fat shaming, the participant was three times as likely to remain obese.

A second study of more than 1,500 people analyzed data related to aging and health over a ten year time period. Participants were asked whether they experienced any discrimination. The survey also asked if they felt somewhat overweight, very overweight or not overweight. Discrimination was most prevalent is participants who were moderately obese and severely obese compared to the non-obese. Those people who were victims of weight discrimination were five times as likely to also face a sharp decline in the ability to function daily: like climb stairs and carry everyday items. The obese who were not victims of weight discrimination were only twice as likely to lose functional abilities. So, physical issues aside… it’s the weight discrimination that played a role in losing the ability to function on a daily basis.

It Doesn’t Solve the Problem

The American Medical Association declared obesity a disease in June of 2013. This means insurance companies will have to recognize and pay for treatments related to obesity. It is well known that being obese or even overweight causes many physical problems, but no one seems to be addressing the actual issue of obesity.

There is a large psychological component to being overweight, remaining overweight or becoming obese. People in any one of these categories use food to deal with their stress, boredom, anger, loneliness and depression. The fat shaming just causes exacerbates all those feelings leading to more eating.

People in this position may lack the self-worth to try and make a change. They may be afraid to make a change and fear the attention that healthy fit body brings. They may not even know why they eat and why they can’t stop. But, the truth remains… obesity is just as much a psychological problem as it is a physical problem.

There is no reason to treat a person with a weight problem with disrespect. If a loved one had an alcohol addiction, you would seek treatment-- not make drinking jokes. If your friend was having trouble catching his breath and performing every day activities because he smoked, you would encourage him to quit-- not publically shame him. You wouldn’t tell someone who is clinically depressed to snap out of it and just move on. You would make sure she received the right care and medication. There are several national campaigns against cyber-bullying. But, for some reason it remains okay to bully the obese.

It Doesn’t Address the Issue

According to psychologists, the number one obstacle to weight loss is emotions. There is no quick fix for emotions and no medicine that is going to change how someone feels. When bullying or discriminating someone for their weight, you are just enhancing those negative emotions.

If you have a weight problem, you can seek out a psychologist or licensed therapist to talk through those feelings so you are able to begin a diet and/or exercise plan.

If you know someone who is overweight, attacking him/her is not going to solve the problem. Instead, become an active listener and help find other outlets for negative emotions. In most cases, it’s really none of your business he chooses to eat or how he decides to conduct his life.

The power to make a change (whether you are overweight, of normal weight or obese) comes from within. No one can convince you to make a change; you have to decide it’s something you want for yourself.

Have you experience or witnessed fat discrimination? Let us know what happened and how you reacted by emailing the author at


Michelle Fescues writes a regular column for Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials. 

Breaking up with your personal trainer

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

The relationship between a personal trainer and his/her client is a delicate one. In some situations, there comes a time when breaking up is the right thing to do, but there are some unwritten rules about when it’s called for and how to do it.

Take a look in the mirror. Do you notice any differences? If your size 12 pants are still tight and you haven’t seen a drop in the scale in over a month, that’s a pretty big clue it might be time to part ways. The stagnant progress might even be your fault (like those extra handfuls from the office candy bowl and the weekend ice cream cones). But, if your personal trainer does not check in with you outside the gym, it’s time to cut the cord. A good trainer gives you tools to stay accountable the other 23 hours of the day when you aren’t together.

If you find yourself dreading the workout because you have to play therapist to your trainer as he hashes out his overly complicated love life, it’s definitely time to drop him. Besides being unprofessional, when a trainer brings his personal problems to your workout, the session loses focus. It’s not supposed to be about him (or her), but you. A little chit chat is fine. But, if you really want to catch up on the ins and outs of the weekend, save it for a post workout stroll outside or while you stretch after the session. When you are training (in most scenarios, not including rehab work), you should be working hard, building up a sweat, catching your breath, and feeling challenged. If anything less is going on, look for someone else.

An obvious sign to search out someone new is when your trainer doesn’t take your workout seriously. Remember, you are paying him/her for a service. That means you deserve to be treated with respect. Your trainer should show up on time, put the I Phone away, and not gaze off into space. If he is checking out the girl running on the treadmill or she is flipping through the latest edition of People, it’s time to scope out a replacement.

Once you make that decision, you owe it to your current trainer to explain why you are not continuing with his/her service. Most likely, you will be under contract and will have to see that through. Once the contract ends, sit down with your trainer and explain that it’s not working for you. Sure, it might seem easier just to say you don’t want to continue or lie (and pretend you don’t have the money this month). But, for the benefit of his or her professional growth and success of his or her future clients, you have to give it to them straight.

Think of it like a performance review at work. You might have some general statements about the overall experience, a positive comment (“You really have an understanding of weight training!”), but then lay out exactly why you are moving on (“My weight hasn’t changed and I noticed we are doing the same workout since our second session together”).

Like all breakups, it can go good or be completely ugly. If he or she begs for you back, stand your ground. Most likely, your trainer had several sessions to prove him or herself.  If you don’t click by your third or fourth meeting, it’s probably not meant to be. It may be a high tech world, but don’t do it via Facebook or text message. In person communication is best, followed by a phone call if there is no other way. 

Once you have tied up loose ends with your trainer, begin a search for a new one. Maybe you have seen someone at the gym who really knows what he/she is doing. Another great way is to talk to your friends and family. See who they recommend and follow-up with their suggestions. Have a fitness or health related question? Email the author at

Michelle Fiscus writes a regular column for Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials.

Studies Surrounding Obesity Overstated

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

The information you receive about nutrition and obesity may be a bit overstated, sending you the wrong message about dietary advice.

Researchers from the University of Alabama looked at papers and studies published on nutrition and obesity. They tracked how often the authors “overreached” in the summary of their findings.

In other words, the results were overstated to frame it in a more favorable way, even if the author did not do it on purpose. About one in 11 studies had some kind of issue that degraded the integrity of the research reporting.

Researchers looked at 937 studies published in either 2001 or 2011 to examine changes over time. All the studies were on nutrition and obesity. Nine percent of those studies overreached their findings. Studies from 2011 were more likely to overstate the results than papers from 2001.

Most of the overreaching statements came from observational studies that inappropriately described a correlation as a cause and effect relationship. Observational studies cannot prove cause and effect. In other overreaching statements, the author generalized the study’s claims and applied the results to large groups of people when the study population was different. Oftentimes, those overreaching statements were used in the public spotlight to make dietary recommendations without better data.

The media exacerbates the issue. When they get a hold of the study or a press release, they are usually given the summary or abstract. They report on the information without going to the original source and overstate the results even more so it sounds more interesting. The overstatements may be unintentional by both groups, but they distort what doctors and the general public know about nutrition.

Unfunded studies had more problems than funded studies, regardless of what group paid for the study.

The next time you hear a story about nutrition, obesity, or even exercise there are a few steps you can follow to make sure you are getting accurate and relevant information:

-Check to see if the study was done on animals or humans. Animals are not a good model for human health.

-Realize there is no quick fix in life. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

-Go to the source of the study and read the entire study—not just the abstract.

-Make sure the author of the study has no competing interests or conflicts.

-Look at the sample size of the study. Did the researcher study 8 people or 8,000 people?

-Identify how long it took to complete the study. In the majority of cases, research completed over several years gives more accurate results than short term studies.

-Compare the number on controlled variables to the uncontrolled variables. Ideally, researchers should control all possible variables. If study participants are left to choose their own diet or perform their own exercise, the results of the study are a lot less accurate.

-Compare the study results to others on the same subject and see how the results stack up.

-Make sure the study proves cause and effect. Observational studies draw a correlation without scientific proof.

-See if the story was funded and which group paid for it.

-Find out if the study was peer reviewed. They tend to be more accurate then studies with no review.

You can read about the research analysis in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Have a fitness or health related question? Email the author at


Michelle Fescues writes a regular column for Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials. 

How Technology is Changing Your Workout

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

The fitness industry is changing.  One-on-one personal training is being replaced with technology.  It was bound to happen.  Grocery stores replaced cashiers with self-scan machines.  Electronic medical records replaced paper charts in doctor offices.  Websites, redbox locations and on demand services wiped out video stores.

Personal trainers are threatened with the same fate.  More and more people are turning to “do it yourself” fitness, making industry experts obsolete.  It’s not just an issue for people who make their living this way.  As a consumer, you need to be aware of how these changes impact the quality of service you receive.   

Fitness Applications and Gadgets

There is a fitness app for almost everything.  At the time of this publication, there are close to 6,000 health related apps. You can find exercise libraries, virtual personal trainers, nutrition databases, and food journals with just a touch of a button.  There are even apps to monitor medical conditions.

These apps and other devices give consumers the opportunity to invest in technology instead of a person. Usually it’s a much smaller one-time cost than the on-going expense of personal training. Fitness apps are no cost to low cost. Fitness watches, activity monitors and software cost a couple hundred dollars. But all the electronics in the world cannot mimic the workout you receive with an expert.  A trainer knows when to change your exercises and which ones you should do. He or she anticipates when you need to work harder or pull back.  A trainer listens and gives feedback on lifestyle challenges.

To illustrate this point, take a look at an experiment conducted by Popular Mechanic’s senior editor. He set out to find if any technology could compete with a live person.  He tried 15 different fitness gadgets and then worked out with a personal trainer.  In the end, he preferred the trainer, concluding technology can’t substitute the experience of a one on one session.  

Motivational Blogs

These days everyone is a fitness expert.  Anyone who has lost weight or made a transformation has a blog documenting their progress, setbacks, and plan.  Transformation stories are great, but they are also leading to a lot of misinformation.  Just because someone lost weight, doesn’t mean they are a fitness expert.  But quite often these people are actually telling their followers what to eat and how to exercise.

There are no definitive answers as to which diet is the best or which workout is the most beneficial.  Diet and exercise tends to be highly individualized.  So, when someone tries to tell you what worked for them and assures you it will work for you, too... realize it is their opinion—not fact.  You have to be careful who you decide to trust on the internet.  You wouldn’t let someone who started a motivational blog on her breast cancer recovery diagnose you with the disease.  You would go to an expert, get the necessary tests done, and then make an action plan.  It’s the same thing with personal training. You find an expert who can test your fitness level, get your health history and lifestyle preferences.  From there, he or she evaluates the results and formulates an individualized plan.  

Video Conferencing

Video conferencing allows customers to set their own workout schedules and connect with trainers that appeal to them the most.  People can work out as individuals or with a group.  The training sessions are much cheaper than what you would find at a gym or with an independent personal trainer.  You can choose single sessions or monthly options. It offers a workout in your home, on your own time and it's cheap.  The biggest benefit to consumers it that it makes fitness available to everyone with internet access.

Another virtual platform is the up-coming rollout of Google Helpouts.  Google is tackling several industries, not just health and fitness.  But pretty soon you can schedule time with a personal trainer over a video conference.  Whether you want a question answered, an in- home session via video, or are looking for new exercise ideas… it will all be available through Google.  Of course, they are taking a cut too.  Plus, there is the option for professionals to offer free services on Helpouts.

For trainers, it is nearly impossible to earn a living from just video conferencing when you take into account the cuts that these companies take and the low prices.

For consumers, these platforms have not been widely tested; so, it's impossible to conclude if they provide the same experience as training with a live person.

Technology is Not Perfect

How many times have you used a self-scanner at the grocery store and had to wait because it wouldn’t scan an item or it took too long because you bought $50 worth of produce and had to enter every code yourself?  It would have been a lot easier to go the cashier and let that person do their job… but often times there is no cashier.

When visiting the doctor, he or she has to spend so much time entering information into the electronic medical record (EMR) system, that little eye contact is made.  As they robotically ask you questions and fill in the tabs, what are they missing that may be essential to diagnosis?  Where is the patient interaction?  It’s a race to fill out the EMR will all the necessary information and perform an exam within 15 minutes before moving onto the next person.

Services that used to reside in a storefront are now eliminated or transformed into an online website.  One of the reasons why there is such an obesity problem is because people don’t move as much they used to.  You don’t have to go food shopping—you can get groceries delivered.   There is no reason to physically leave your house to watch or rent a movie when you can just power up your computer. Why bother going to a park, using a bike, or meeting with friends when there is a wide variety of virtual games and distracting websites right at your fingertips?  Why go shopping when there are hundreds, maybe thousands of online options that will deliver it to your door?  Sure, it’s all convenient but it’s made people lazy. Think how active you would be if you had to leave your home to complete every one of those activities.

What it all Means for You

The digital revolution is transforming health and fitness.  

If you’re a trainer, you will have to adapt.  But, that doesn’t mean adapting to fit into the small molds that big business is carving out for you.  You have to find new ways to reach new people. Technology definitely has its place within the industry but it should not define the industry.  You are providing a service.  Service industries are meant to be personal.

If you’re a consumer realize cheaper does not equate to better. Fitness is an investment.  It doesn’t have to be a lifelong investment.  Sometimes you just need an expert to help you out for a few months and give you the tools to do it successfully on your own.  There are plenty of technological advancements that can enhance your health experience but they shouldn’t be the sole source of information. You have to be your own advocate for everything.  There is not a one size fits all plan for fitness and nutrition.  Anyone who tries to sell you their plan or their device because they say it’s THE only thing or best thing that works is deceiving you.

Do you incorporate high tech gadgets or apps into your workouts?  Would you want to try a virtual workout session? If you're a trainer, do you think technology helps or hurts your business? 

Let us know in the comments section or email the author at


Michelle Fiscus writes a regular column for Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials. 

How to Train for Fat Loss

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

If you want to lose fat, you have to train a certain way in addition to being in a deficit. First, let’s talk about what not to do while on a diet:

Maintain a sedentary lifestyle. Do hours of cardio a week. Do cardio and very light weight training (20-30 reps or more) that does not take you to failure. 

You will lose weight if you choose one or a combination of those three options. However, it will not be just fat, meaning you have a higher probability of losing lean mass. This has become known as “skinny fat”. You will weigh less, but you’ll still be flabby. Skinny people look good in clothes, fit people look good naked. If you don’t care how you look naked, then you can stop reading here and go back to whatever else you were doing. However, if aesthetics is a concern… it is important to focus on losing fat, not just weight. In addition to looking better fat loss also improves your bad cholesterol and glucose tolerance, brings blood pressure down and reduces risk for cardiovascular disease.

Glycogen Stores 101

When you eat a meal, the carbohydrates are converted to glucose and used for energy. Excess carbohydrates are converted into glycogen and stored in the liver, muscles, and a tiny amount in the blood stream.

When your body needs energy (to fuel a workout or because you haven’t eaten in four to six hours), it converts that glycogen back to glucose and starts to deplete your stores. According to research, the more glycogen you have stored in your body, the less fat you burn during your workout and at rest. Therefore, by depleting your glycogen and manipulating your diet, you can maximize fat burning.

The Energy Systems

In order to lower glycogen stores you have to train a certain way. During the first ten seconds of a muscular contraction your body is using its phosphate system, also known as the ATP-CP energy pathway. ATP stands for adenosine phosphate which is stored in the muscle. CP stands for creatine phosphate which resynthesizes ATP. The body then moves to aerobic metabolism or anaerobic metabolism depending on your intensity.

The anaerobic pathway or glycolysis creates ATP from carbohydrates (glycogen). This pathway is used during high intensity work, like weight lifting or sprinting and can last up to two minutes. Lactic acid is a by-product of glycolysis. And after that two minute mark, you start to feel a muscular burn caused by lactic acid’s accompanying hydrogen ions. This is what forces you to take a rest period before you start again. Glycolysis can only fuel about two hours of work… but this is the pathway that will lower your glycogen storage. After that, you will have to lower your exercise intensity to keep going.

At that point you will be dipping into your aerobic metabolism. It uses oxygen to convert carbohydrates, proteins, and most importantly fats to ATP. This is primarily what your body uses during endurance exercise, like running, biking, and dancing. But, this is also the pathway you use at rest which is an important point I will bring up later.

The body doesn’t exclusively start one pathway, then stop and go onto the next. They all run together and work harder or pull back depending on exercise intensity. The harder the intensity, the more your body is going to call upon the anaerobic pathway. When you lower the intensity your body is going to get a higher percentage of fuel from the aerobic pathway.

How to Deplete Glycogen

     1. Metabolic Training

Metabolic Training has several pseudonyms: interval training, circuit training, turbulence training and more. They all accomplish the same thing and are carried out on relatively the same principal. You perform (on average) 12 to 15 reps of an exercise with only 30 to 60 seconds of rest in-between sets. Usually, you do three to four sets of an exercise before moving onto the next. This type of training is forcing your muscles to use the anaerobic pathway. When exercising this way at the right intensity, you will “start to feel the burn” towards the end of your set. That’s the lactic acid and hydrogen ions. It’s also the reason why you need a brief rest between sets—to clear it out—so you can go again.

     2. Lift to Failure

To use glycogen, you need to lift heavy. I recommend staying within the 8 to 12 repetition range. That means, that you physically cannot lift the weight anymore somewhere between the 8th and 12th rep. In the last three years, a handful of studies have called into question whether light weight can induce as much muscle hypertrophy as heavier weights. But, your focus here is to deplete glycogen. You want to work in the anaerobic pathway as much as possible.

Achieving failure is a lot easier said than done. Exercise beginners are afraid of burn. Even some experienced exercisers don’t like to push themselves to that point and stop too soon. No matter what weight you choose, you need to work to failure.

     3. Lift first

If fat loss is your goal, it makes sense to lift first. By performing resistance exercise for at least 30 minutes, you are using up glycogen. By the time you get to cardio, your body you will be using more of your aerobic metabolism. Remember, it will not be relying completely on aerobic metabolism if you still have glycogen. To help increase the percentage coming from aerobic metabolism, do 5 to 10 minutes of sprints followed by 20 to 30 minutes of lower intensity exercise. As the duration of the cardio goes up, the more of the aerobic pathway you use.

     4. Fasted Workouts

When you sleep, your body needs fuel to maintain all of its bodily functions, so it uses glycogen. If you work out in the morning, you can get into aerobic metabolism a lot faster because there is less glycogen to deplete. Remember, you can create ATP from fat metabolism, it is just slower and you will not be able to lift as heavy. Aerobic metabolism is also what your body uses all day long: as you sit in your car, work in the office, etc. It will operate at a lower percentage when there are carbohydrates available for fuel and increase as available glucose drops off.

This means the best time to train might be after you wake up before you eat when your body is already drawing upon fat stores for fuel.

In the last few years, many studies have come out in support of this. One such study asked participants to fast for 12 to 14 hours and then perform moderate intensity exercise during the fast. On average, participants did about 60 minutes of walking. Over 12 weeks, the study subjects lost around nine pounds of weight, but measured 16 pounds of fat loss; meaning they gained muscle while losing fat.

Basically, what researchers confirmed in this study (and many others like it) are the benefits of intermittent fasting. You can perform a fasted workout in the morning, or fast during the day and perform a workout in the afternoon, properly fueling your body after exercise. Since you are going to be strength training and not just walking, you may want to look into Martin Berkhan’s intermittent fasting protocol. He has laid out specific recommendations for branch chain amino acid consumption pre-workout and meal consumption post-workout.

Final Points

The rules set above apply to experienced exercisers. If you are new to a program and fueling your body correctly, you have a short window whereby almost anything you do is going to promote muscle growth while reducing fat.

You need to have a nutrition plan in place. You want to fuel your body correctly before and after exercise but not completely refill your glycogen stores. This is a complex piece of the puzzle. You want to eat enough and consume the right foods to repair your muscles but not undo all of your hard work. Some basics are laid out in this article.

Finally, do not workout at high intensities all the time. You are setting yourself up for all sorts of hormonal problems. The point of glycogen depletion is to train smart: time your workouts and meals to give you the best fat burning advantage. Questions, comments? Email the author at


Michelle Fiscus writes a regular column for Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials. 

Do Food Allergies Make You Fat?

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

Do food allergies make you fat?  That’s a great question and the answer depends on who you ask.

The theory goes: a specific food allergy or allergies prevents someone from losing weight and causes all sorts of awful symptoms.  Diet plans based on this call for dropping a certain food (or in some cases foods) -- so you can lose the weight once and for all.

It’s incorrect to say food allergies are making you fat.  Technically it’s not a food allergy.  It’s food intolerance in question.  Here a few medical definitions you need to know:

A food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by the body’s immune system. When the body has an adverse reaction to food it produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). There are several types of immune responses to allergens. The response may be mild like a rash or (in rare cases) it can be associated with a life threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.

A food intolerance causes a wide variety of symptoms: everything from bloating, to headaches, and indigestion, but it is not a food allergy.  It is not life threatening. You can have a food intolerance to lactose-- which is the sugar found in milk and milk products, an intolerance to food additives, or an intolerance to gluten (which is not the same as actually having Celiac disease).  That is not an extensive list of culprits, but the food items that get the most complaints.

From this point forward, I am going to use the correct term: food intolerance.  But realize proponents of elimination diet plans often use the incorrect term: food allergy.  They are not synonymous and you are being misled when they use it.

There is no way to trace back the mainstream popularity of diet plans based on the concept of food intolerances, but Dr. Mark Hyman made a contribution.  He believes the wrong foods make you inflamed, and then the inflammation causes obesity. He even appeared on the Dr. Oz show, where he received support and endorsement for his theories. More recently someone named JJ Virgin wrote a book and diet plan about food intolerances. Her beliefs and diet recommendations are very similar to Dr. Mark Hyman.  She advocates dropping eggs, dairy, gluten, soy, peanuts, corn, and yeast for a period of at least 21 days.

Dr. Hyman cites two studies from 2007: one in humans and one in mice. You can’t make conclusions about human health based on animal studies. According to the British Medical Journal, “[Animal Studies] are generally of poor quality and lack agreement with clinical trials, which limits their usefulness to human health. This discordance may be due to bias, random error, or the failure of animal models to adequately represent clinical disease.”

Dr. Hyman’s evidence in humans comes from a study of children who were already overweight.  He claims their blood work showed high inflammation, whereas normal weight children did not, making the connection that inflammation causes obesity. Scientists really don’t know what happens in humans. And, there is plenty of research that shows those inflammatory molecules might be produced after someone becomes obese, in response to becoming obese—not before.

In the September 2013 edition of the Journal of Endocrinology, researchers admitted that, “Whether obesity precedes insulin resistance or vice versa is however still a matter of debate. Weight loss is particularly important in improving NAFLD [Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease] but also glucose metabolism and cardiovascular risk (Musso et al. 2012). Notably, patients with type 2 diabetes and NAFLD have shown that moderate weight reduction (about 8 kg) was sufficient to improve NAFLD and reverse hepatic insulin resistance (Petersen et al. 2005).”

A 2006 study that looked at the relationship between obesity, insulin resistance and inflammation talks about the same inflammatory molecules as Dr. Hyman; however those researchers suggest obesity causes those inflammatory molecules to respond, “In obesity, [white adipose tissue] is characterized by an increased production and secretion of a wide range of inflammatory molecules including TNF-alpha (TNFa) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).” The researchers are careful to admit there are no definitive answers, “[TNF-a’s] actual involvement in glucose metabolism disorders in humans remains controversial. IL-6 production by human adipose tissue increases during obesity. “

To make things even more confusing, IL-6 is also released during exercise and may serve a beneficial role in insulin sensitivity.

The point is, no one actually knows.

What we do know is there is a link between obesity and low grade inflammation. We do not know which comes first.  Just as Dr. Mark Hyman believes a bacterial toxin latches onto immune cells and creates inflammatory molecules which cause insulin resistance, it’s just as easy to hypothesize that first comes obesity, then comes insulin resistance, and then inflammatory cytokines are released in response to the insulin resistance.  

Besides the lack of scientific evidence in favor elimination diets, there is no way proven way to test for food intolerances that might make someone “inflamed”.

Immuglobulin E testing is used to diagnose food allergies.  If your body has an immune reaction to a food or substance, your body sees that item as an invader and will produce IgE in defense.  The body causes the symptoms associated with food allergies as part of that defense.

Doctors who believe in food inflammation use something called immuglobulin G (IgG) testing. The test is also looking for an immune reaction in the body.  Proponents of IgG testing say a positive test indicates your body has intolerance to a certain food. 

A larger portion of the medical community believes the presence of IgG actually indicates your body’s tolerance to the food, not intolerance. Canada does not support it for the purpose of food intolerance testing.

“There is no body of research that supports the use of this test to diagnose adverse reactions to food or to predict future adverse reactions. The literature currently suggests that the presence of specific IgG to food is a marker of exposure and tolerance to food, as seen in those participating in oral immunotherapy studies. Hence, positive test results for food-specific IgG are to be expected in normal, healthy adults and children. Furthermore, the inappropriate use of this test only increases the likelihood of false diagnoses being made, resulting in unnecessary dietary restrictions and decreased quality of life…. The CSACI strongly discourages the practice of food-specific IgG testing for the purposes of identifying or predicting adverse reactions to food. We also wish to remind the medical community that blood testing of any kind cannot substitute for consultation with a trained and accredited medical professional such as an Allergist/Immunologist for the diagnosis and management of adverse reactions to food.”

Plus, IgG testing can be expensive and is often not covered by insurance.

The medical community in the United States does not have a position on IgG testing.  However, Science Based Medicine  (a site written by and edited by medical doctors) drew their own conclusions after looking at the scientific evidence:

“IgG antibodies signify exposure to products—not allergy. IgG may actually be a marker for food tolerance, not intolerance, some research suggests:

Children with eczema and egg or milk allergies with higher levels of IgG to milk/egg were more likely to be tolerant of these foods at a later age. Resolution of cow’s milk allergy is associated with increasing IgG A study found increasing IgG in patients who underwent oral immunotherapy for milk or peanut allergy. 

That research is continuing. But given the lack of correlation between the presence of IgG and physical manifestations of illness, IgG testing is considered unproven as a diagnostic agent as the results lack clinical utility as a tool for dietary modification or food elimination.”

So why do people lose weight on elimination diets if IGg testing actually indicates a tolerance to foods and not an intolerance?

Let’s take a look at JJ Virgin’s plan again.  What are you left with when you drop all of her foods: eggs, dairy, soy, yeast, peanuts, corn, gluten? Basically you can eat meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.  That’s pretty close to the paleo diet, which has its own critics.  You can’t eat anything processed because many of those seven items are in a lot of packaged foods.  Of course you are going to lose weight.  It is very low carb by nature. It is difficult to over eat those items unless you take a spoon to a jar of almond butter. When you lose weight you experience all those wonderful effects she touts in her book because weight loss in general causes positive changes.  Even a 10% reduction in weight causes a dramatic change in your body, regardless of how you lose that weight.

There is no correlation proving eliminating these foods causes weight loss because your body never tolerated those foods.  In eliminating them you are automatically reducing your food choices and are forced to eat a low calorie and low carb.

There are a few medical circumstances when you should eliminate foods and those include:

If you have an allergy to a food (like peanuts) that causes an IgE mediated reaction. If you have an allergy to dairy or medically diagnosed lactose intolerance avoid it or choose lactose free dairy. If you have medically diagnosed gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease, avoid gluten.

This is not the end of the story on food intolerances. Scientists don’t have all the answers.  As new research becomes available in favor of either side of this issue, I’ll be sure to update this story so you get the truth. For questions regarding the information contained in this article, email the author at


Michelle Fiscus writes a regular column for Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials. 

Healthy Fall Recipes

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

It’s looking a lot like fall around Frederick. Halloween decorations have been out for more than a week and area stores are putting pumpkins on display. The change of the season brings a variety of new produce to try… either on its own or in a healthy recipe.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A, B, and C. And don’t leave the skin behind-- it’s full of fiber. You can control how sweet your potato tastes by how you cook it: the slower and longer you go, the sweeter it turns out. Besides sweet potato casserole and pie, try it one of these two savory dishes: sweet potato chile mac or sweet potato chicken curry.


Parsnips look like a white carrot and are best harvested in late fall or even early winter. They have a sweet flavor and contain 4 grams of fiber per half cup in addition tovitamin C, folate, and potassium. For a super easy side dish try roasted parsnips and carrots, or serve parsnip soup in place of higher fat cream based ones.


Pear season is in full swing and will continue through October. A large on has five grams of fiber, plenty of vitamin C and 190 milligrams of potassium. While pears are great to eat alone to satisfy a sweet tooth, they are also a great complement to a variety of dishes. Pair it with quinoa and walnuts for a unique pear salad. Or, you can toss pears with bacon and another fall favorite: squash, in this salty sweet combination.

Winter Squash

There are plenty of reasons to eat squash on its own. It’s a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, potassium and manganese. Winter squash differ from summer squash because they have a tough rind and you have to cook the flesh before eating. For a low calorie alternative to pasta, try spaghetti squash named for its pulp which looks like spaghetti strands. And for a meatless take on quesadilla try these made with acorn squash.


While pumpkin and pie go hand and hand in the fall, there are other ways to enjoy this vegetable. On its own pumpkin is a low calorie food and high in vitamin A, the B vitamins and trace minerals. Besides carving pumpkins or roasting their seeds try homemade pumpkin ravioli using wonton wrappers or puree it and turn it into a dip to serve with apple slices.

Brussel Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are considered high in protein for a vegetable with over three and half grams per serving. They also contain vitamin K vitamin, B vitamins, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and more. There is a reason why your mom tried to get you to eat them! Avoid over cooking brussel sprouts to avoid the sometimes bitter taste. You can also combine them with grapes and roast the pair together or, sauté brussel sprouts with parmesan and pine nuts.


Apples are a great source of insoluble and soluble fiber (if you eat the skin) and contain vitamin C and antioxidants. If you have Granny Smith apples, try this cranberry apple tart. Or incorporate a sweet variety (like Golden Delicious) into this sausage apple and cranberry stuffing recipe.

If you have a recipe using fall produce let us know in the comments section below, or email the author at


Michelle Fiscus writes a regular column for Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials. 

How Long Until I See Results from Working Out: Part One

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

Most people don’t like exercising and feel even less enthusiastic about dieting. So when do you put in the work and give maximum effort you expect to see changes-- today… not in a couple weeks, or even worse months.

Sorry to break the bad news: you’re going to have to wait. How long you wait depends on a complicated array of genetic and lifestyle factors.

This two-part article is going to break down the most common fitness goals: how long it takes to lose weight and how long it takes to gain muscle.

Part One: How Long to Lose Weight

If you want to lose weight you have to burn calories. You can move more, eat less or do a combination of both. Most people don’t understand how much activity you actually need to induce weight loss from exercise. It’s lot more than you think. 20 minutes a day is not going to cut it. That may enough for heart health, but not for weight loss. In order to be labeled “active” you need to get 10,000 steps in. Get a pedometer and give it a try. It’s not so simple with today’s sedentary jobs; most adults only walk 4,000-6,000 steps a day.

While you should definitely try to move more, it’s a lot easier to eat less. Plus, if you don’t focus on your diet to a degree then you are never going to see the results from your physical activity. Or, at the very least you will stop seeing results over time.

The dogma move more, eat less is a great place for a beginner to start but it’s really an over simplification of whole process. And when people don’t see the results they expect, they want an explanation.

It’s thought 3,500 calories is equivalent to one pound of fat. If you cut 500 calories a day, you should lose a pound of fat a week; but, you never lose just fat. Diet and exercise induce all kinds of weight changes: loss of lean body mass (muscle), loss of water stored in bodily tissues and the weight associated with lack of food volume. That’s why initially you may lose 2-5 pounds per week for the first couple weeks. But, that’s weight-- not all fat.

If you continue losing at that level, double check your protein intake. If you’re in an aggressive deficit but not eating enough protein you’ll lose more muscle than fat. Your weight will drop fast, but it won’t be the kind of weight you want.

Exactly how much body fat you lose every week depends on your genetics, starting weight and beginning body composition. Doctor Kevin Hall has done many studies on body weight regulation and his model asserts the higher your body fat percentage, the larger the deficit you need to lose one pound of body weight compared to a lean person. However, heavier individuals tend to lose more fat than lean body mass whereas if you are already lean and try to diet down, you’re more likely to lose muscle and hold onto your fat.

You also have to account for changes in your metabolism. As you lose weight, your body requires less energy meaning you have to lower how many calories you are eating or increase your activity. And while over time your metabolism will slow (partly because you weigh less), it’s never going to stop. If you are in a deficit you will lose weight.

Sometimes it won’t show up on the scale. It doesn’t mean you are not losing. Fat loss can masked by sodium induced water retention, hormone water retention, or food volume. Weight loss is not immediate either. Just because you had a good day yesterday doesn’t mean you are going to be rewarded on the scale today.

It’s also possible you reached a plateau. That’s the point when your intake and activity match your new (lower) body weight and metabolism. There is no consensus as to when a weight loss stall officially becomes a plateau, but experts give timelines ranging from two to four weeks without a loss. At that time you need to up the activity, lower your calories or take a diet break.

Sometimes a stall represents a gain in muscle while losing fat. This is especially the case if you are weight training for the first time and eating a diet with enough protein. After seeing an initial loss of water, glycogen, and a little fat… you might not lose weight for a while but notice your clothes fit better. Don’t fear a change in body composition. Remember, the goal should be fat loss not weight loss.

Track your weight on a monthly basis for a more accurate number and don’t just depend on just the scale. You can take pictures and measurements as an alternate method to hold you accountable.

If you have questions about how exercise can help you reach your weight loss goal, contact the author at


Michelle Fiscus writes a regular column for Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials.

The New Faces of Fitness

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

There are plenty of options when it comes to fitness: whether you like lifting weights, taking dance classes, or going for a jog. Yet, some people crave something more than traditional exercise. For them, there are several new trends growing in popularity that cater to their inner adrenaline junkie and recreational athlete. For the sake of this article, I’ll call these options “extreme fitness”.


Former gymnast Greg Glassman opened the first CrossFit gym in 1995 to promote overall fitness using weightlifting, sprinting, and gymnastic techniques. The exercises are randomly put in a workout of the day (WOD). CrossFit grew in popularity once the WOD was featured online and anyone anywhere could give it a try. Workouts are short, functional, and often involve full body lifts. You never know what you’re going to get: weights, cardio or both.

Pros: CrossFit teaches people full body exercises that utilize many muscle groups. It also encourages women to lift weight—especially heavy weight which has benefits for fat loss and bone density. Besides its online presence, there are CrossFit gyms across the country that people can go to for more instruction and a sense of community.

Cons: It is so randomized that you might squat two days in a row or train your back muscles multiple days of the week. When you don’t periodize your workout and “go hard” all the time you are at risk for over training. Some of the workouts may be beyond your fitness level and there is a higher chance of injuring yourself compared to adapting to a new routine over time.


Tabata enthusiasts claim you can get fantastic results in just four minutes a day. It is a ramped of version of high intensity interval training, You do a working set for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat eight times. Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata and his fellow colleagues came up with it while studying different types of training to improve the performance of Japanese speed skaters.

Pros: High intensity interval training improves both the aerobic system and the anaerobic one, compared to moderate intensity cardio which only works the aerobic. It’s time efficient considering you are getting a high intensity workout in just four minutes.

Cons: The science behind Tabata is real but the application does not translate to the general population. You need to work at 170 percent of your VO2 Max. VO2 Max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense exercise. Maximum heart rate (MHR) is often calculated by subtracting your age from 220. So—if you’re 30 years old… your max heart rate (in theory) is 190. 170 percent VO2max is roughly 146 percent of one’s MHR … so, in this example 277 beats per minute. Unless you are an elite athlete or hooked up to a monitor with a doctor standing right next to you, that’s not a good idea.

Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder events are billed as the hardest fitness event on the planet. Not only do you have to run a course of 10-12 miles—but successfully scale mud, fire, water and 12 foot walls. They were originally designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, and camaraderie.

Pros: The course gives you a complete workout: you have to be able to run, pull your body weight up, and safely jump far distances. Tough Mudder participants don’t take themselves too seriously: they favor team work instead of competition.

Cons: These races aren’t for the faint of heart; after all, they were designed for elite military professionals. While the atmosphere is supposed to be fun, the obstacles are potentially dangerous. This April, a 28 year old man from Maryland died after he drowned in a mud pool during an event. 20 others were injured at the same race. If you’re considering a Tough Mudder or similar event, remember the military go through months of practice before attempting their obstacle courses. You should give yourself comparable time.

Parkour Runs

Another extreme fitness trend owes it roots to military training. It’s called Parkour runs. Instead of traditional pre-determined obstacles, people who participate in Parkour consider anything in their way an obstacle: a bench, a wall, a street light. They try to move past it quickly by using their bodies to propel themselves past whatever is in their way.

Pros: Parkour calls on many aspects of physical fitness including running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping and rolling. It’s noncompetitive and creativity is stressed, as participants are supposed to find unique ways to get passed obstacles.

Cons: Just like mud runs, true Parkour tends to be on the more dangerous side. A 24 year old girl passed away trying to jump a building during her first Parkour attempt. You need incredible power to complete the jumps, as well as almost acrobatic ability to scale walls and swing on obstacles in your environment. Parkour inspired another activity called free running which is similar but not as dangerous.

Which one is for you?

Check online to see if classes and events are in your area. Watch one before you actually participate. If you try any of these extreme fitness methods, make sure you are physically capable to keep up and don’t be too proud to take to it slowly, allowing your body time to adapt. There are many ways to stay fit, so keep trying different activities until you find the one you’re passionate about. For questions on this article or anything else fitness related email the author at


Michelle Fiscus writes a regular column for Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials.