Fitness Snacks

I confess I hate jogging, long and strenuous exercises, static cycling or the like.
I find them terrible boring. I’ve tried listening to music, I’ve told myself how well I’ll be a.s.o. Nothing, I just can’t.
Swimming is a different story. Maybe I was a duck in a previous life, I’d spend my life floating on water.   But … I can swim only in my vacation and once or  twice a week in a health club pool.

Photo Emilia Dragne

Also, I will never refuse a nice walk in fresh air, in a park or a wood. Especially if there’ a chance to do some nice photos or pick some wild berries or mushrooms.

But swimming like a duck and strolling through a nice garden are by far not enough to get rid of the old surplus pounds, my scale tells me.
I need to strengthen my muscles a lot more.

Maybe, this limited physical  exercising is the reason I don’t get rid of surplus pounds, although I’m quite a conscious dieter.
I’ve got to find quickly some new ideas as Spring is knocking at my door.

I’ve stumbled on a very interesting blog article on MyFitnessPal
I cite “As our muscles get bigger, they trigger protein synthesis, which requires calories. The result is a sustained burning of calories and an increased metabolic rate”
And one other interesting idea from this blog is the “workout snacks”, quick-and-easy mini workouts you can do throughout your day.
Let’s see what I can do.

A few minutes of isometric exercises is the first “fitness snack” that comes to my mind.
In an usual exercise you tense your muscles while shortening or lengthening it.
In an isometric exercise you just tense you muscle without changing its length. Like a  pose in body building or pushing against an immovable object such as a wall.

You have to do this, like all exercises, correctly. The following article has been most helpful for me, to understand the issues and benefits:

According to the author recommendations, I’ll start  with three six-second contractions for each exercise and add a rep per week. No more than 10 minutes per session, finally. In between reps I’ll perform some breathing exercises or anything else that will shake off the muscle tension.

Another short exercises  that comes into my old mind are dumbbells weight exercises.  Easy to do at home. I just need to browse youtube and make myself a five-minute exercise collection. Like some of these ones

Then I have to do some neck exercises. This article is most helpful

Taichi might be useful for my arthritis. I’ll start modestly, once or twice a week, 10 minutes and see how it goes. Quite tricky, I don’t know if  my new taichi video pack will do, maybe I’ll need some guru to teach me.

Photo Rayko Swensson


Finally, although it’ll be boring, I’ll try static bicycle but only a four minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine. I’ll use a common formula: a 2:1 ratio of work to recovery periods, for example, 30–40 seconds of hard sprinting alternated with 15–20 seconds of slow cycling. I’ll have to add to this a 2 minutes warm-up and a 3 minutes cool-down. This is more than a “fitness snack”, it’s “breakfast”.


Let’s wrap it all.

  • Twice a week, swimming, at least 5 times a week walking in the park. These I do already.
  • Taichi, once a week.
  • One session of 5-ten minutes of isometric exercises, in the evening, most of the days.
  • One session of 5 minutes HIIT on the static bicycle in the morning, maybe not every day. Plus a 2 minutes warm-up and a 3 minutes cool-down.
  • A few minutes of neck exercises whenever I sit down at my computer.
  • One 5-minutes weight exercises, whenever I’m very nervous. This will happen at least a once a day, I guarantee. If it’s not the global warming or my scale or some nut on Facebook, there’ll be for sure something else. I know my world.
  • Keep a journal on a site, Fitbit or MyFitnessPal.


This is the plan, it’s so nice to make plans!
I’ll tell you in a month what I’ve been able to actually do.


  • active-arms-back-867453

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Instead of Subtracting, Try Adding!

Regarding nutrition, we, humans, tend to simplify what is an incredible complex problem, that of obesity.
As a result, it seems to me, we are now in dire straights (an elegant way to say we are in deep…. shhhhht.  🙂

pexels-photo-207153 (1)

A lot too many scientific studies in nutrition are in a way “fake”.
I distrust statistics, particularly those based on questionnaires. I’ve completed myself such questionnaires, thinking I’m honest and then, after keeping a journal for a while, I’ve discovered that I’ve been honest only in my mind.
Many studies are based on small sets of people, with a limited number of parameters and on a very short time. They usually end with an honest “we’ve noticed this and that but more research is needed”. Only problem, is that media or commercial diets or other interested parties present these observations as super scientific results.

Most recommendations nowadays seem to me to be so simplistic!
“Eat less” mantra has been replaced by all kind of restrictions, like “eat low carb”, “eat high fat, low carb”, “fast for 2 days a week”, “eat only veggies”, “give up  sugar”,”eat only low fat dairy” and so on.

Been there, seen that. Along the last 20 years, I’ve given up sugar, limited saturated fats, been for 2 weeks on a “no carb diet”, been fasting, been on a 1600 kcal diet for some time, been on a diet high in protein, with less carbs, more veggies for months, ate no bread for more than a month, been exercising a.s.o.
I’ve got ridden of more than 20 pounds, put back half of them and now I’m on a plateau and struggling not to put on. And honestly, I’m getting tired of all this nutrition bruhahaha.

However, some research, even if limited,  is worth taking a second look at and some results are good food for thought.
And I do trust chemistry and biology established facts, like what you see in chemical reactions and with a microscope. Scientific facts, not mere statistics.

I’m fond of an idea (someone smarter than me got it, I’m sorry I don’t remember who, maybe Mike Polan). Instead of subtracting, try adding!
Add more good food in your life, like organic food, vegetables, fruits but also fish, quality diary and cheese, eggs, home cooked recipes. Add more interesting activities, physical but not only.

You can do some science yourself. Keep a journal, note the essential at least. Calories, portions, carbs, protein and fat, energy density, your exercises and from time to time your weight, waist, glicemia and blood pressure. Right now, online tools, like that MyFitnessPal, a good wi-fi scale and a pedometer make it so easy!
Review this journal, from time to time. Try to know yourself better.



  • Don’t accept easily scientific studies results, check any result from more studies and for a longer time.
  • Distrust media, always review the original study.
  • Avoid the simplistic solutions, especially those that “subtract” a food group from your diet.
  • Do some science yourself. Keep a journal, note the essential at least. Review from time to time your journal, looking for “patterns”, trying to understand better the relation between your lifestyle and your body.
  • Instead of subtracting, try adding!
    Add more goodies in your life, like organic food, vegetables, fruits but also fish, quality dairy and cheese, eggs, home cooked recipes. Add more interesting  activities, physical but not only.

Some  interesting studies
They might give you some ideas, worth to try, while keeping a journal.

Slow eating speed may be linked to weight loss

Slowing down the speed at which you eat, along with cutting out after dinner snacks and not eating within 2 hours of going to sleep may all help to shed the pounds, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Eating less not the best way to lose weight, study shows

By Ana Sandoiu, 1918, Medical News Today

“The results show that choosing healthy, lower-calorie-dense foods was more effective and more sustainable than just trying to resist large portions of higher calorie options. If you choose high-calorie-dense foods but restrict the amount that you’re eating, portions will be too small, and you’re likely to get hungry,” Zuraikat goes on.

Barbara Rolls, a professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State and a co-author on the study, also  chimes in.
“The study supports the idea that eating less of the higher-calorie-dense foods and more of the nutritious, lower-calorie-dense foods can help to manage hunger while consuming fewer calories. You still have a full plate,” she adds, “but you’re changing the proportions of the different types of foods.”


The PREDIMED (PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea) multicenter, randomized, primary prevention trial assessed the long-term effects of the Mediterranean diet (MeDiet) on clinical events of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Polyphenol Levels Are Inversely Correlated with Body Weight and Obesity in an Elderly Population after 5 Years of Follow Up (The Randomised PREDIMED Study)

A greater polyphenol intake may thus contribute to reducing body weight in elderly people at high cardiovascular risk.

Note.  The most important food sources are fruit and vegetables, green tea, black tea, red wine, coffee, chocolate, olives, and extra virgin olive oil. Herbs and spices, nuts and algae are also potentially significant for supplying certain polyphenols. Some polyphenols are specific to particular food (flavanones in citrus fruit, isoflavones in soya, phloridzin in apples); whereas others, such as quercetin, are found in all plant products such as fruit, vegetables, cereals, leguminous plants, tea, and wine.

Yogurt consumption and abdominal obesity reversion in the PREDIMED study.

Total yogurt consumption was not significantly associated with reversion of abdominal obesity status and a lower waist circumference. However, consumption of whole-fat yogurt was associated with changes in waist circumference and higher probability for reversion of abdominal obesity. Therefore, it seems that whole-fat yogurt has more beneficial effects in management of abdominal obesity in elderly population at high cardiovascular risk.



Diet Yes, Uncompromising No

via Daily Prompt: Uncompromising

A lot of common sense is necessary when reading nutrition and diet information and one should double check all with reliable sources. Especially if you’re not a nutritionist or doctor ( I’m not),  one might have it all wrong.
And, who said this, Mark Twain maybe:
“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint”.
You have to keep an open mind but sometimes it’s hard to  have a dialogue with uncompromising people, be they doctors, nutritionists or their followers.

Some have made kind of a religion out of their diet and when it comes to religion, one must be very careful, you won’t like being labeled the bad witch and “be executed”.

I guess on fashion are now  the Vegans and Ketogenic Dieters. Some are even “aggressive” on the net. Just go to one of their forum, try to tell them in a sensible way that you don’t agree with this or that and see what happens.

I haven’t realized that Ketogenic Diet has become such a religion and humbly commented on a page that I think it’s quite dangerous for my old age.
I kind of know this from my own experience, I’ve tried a week without carbs and my heart told me to stop.
I’m right now “fighting” with a commercial Ketogenic Diet page, which is  bombarding me with stupid messages trying to prove me I’m wrong. It’s worse than a virus. Some of the persons sending me these messages seem to be “fake”. I’ve given up, unfollowed,  deleted my message on their page and hope this will be enough.

Meanwhile, though I used to think that any diet had something good, even the cabbage soup one, I’ve recently became quite uncompromising myself  with such extreme diets.

I won’t comment on Ketogenic Diet other than I guess that, like all low-carb diets in the past, it cannot last for life, at least not for most people. After going back to normal, in less than 2 years you will put back all you’ve lost and more. The best you can hope for is to keep your kidneys and heart healthy.

With Veganism, it’s a bit more complicated.  It’s… how shall I put it,  so politically correct, such nice and noble ideas at first glance…
They want to change the world for better but can the whole world afford to be so noble?
We are omnivore and there are nutrients that we cannot find in plants or we find them easier and more affordable in  animal products. Not to mention the Arctic People or poor mountain people, what are they supposed to eat?
Strangely enough, being omnivore might help Nature in fact, just think about it.

Sometimes it’s pure economics, you simply cannot afford to be a Vegan and stay  healthy. But most Vegans will not accept this idea nor will they make concessions.

I myself prefer the traditional moderate approach in my country.
Be Vegan on Fridays, eat fish instead of meat at least one day a week, fast from time to time, like in Spring before Eastern or in Winter, before Christmas.
Eat “lighter” on Summer, mostly veggies, fruits, cheese, eggs, dairy and poultry.
Not too strict though, uncompromising  it’s not for me.

The Romanian veggie recipes are so delicious and today is my “Vegan” day.
I  will eat zakuskahummus and home made jam at breakfast, beans soup at lunch, a fruit salad, an umami pilaf for dinner. One of the Winter salads will be on my table, for sure.
But on weekend, it’s barbecue!



Calories, How Much?

I’m rethinking my whole lifestyle and, of course, there is this question begging for a scientific  answer: “How much should I eat not to get fat anymore?”
And the next question would be “How much from carbs, protein and fat?”

First of all, I’ll get rid of what did not work in the past:

  • Eating less. Nope, didn’t work for me. I have been eating 200 – 400 less than what was recommended for me, plus exercising, and still couldn’t get rid of surplus pounds.
    It seems sometimes my body has a mind of its own “Aha, this poor lady is in danger of starving, let’s make some more fat deposits“.
    My question is “How many calories should I eat to stay healthy?” and not “How many calories should I eat to lose weight?”
  • Eating more than 50% of calories from carbs. Nope, this is not going to happen to me anymore. Some carbs are spiking my blood sugar, I’ve done some simple tests with the aid of a glucometer. And, my journal tells me more than 4 portions of bread or other starches a day,  do fatten me. So does sugar. If you don’t eat lots of starches, only 2-3 portions a fruit a day and almost no sugar, having more than 50% of calories from carbs is quite difficult.
  • Eating low carb, low fat dairy, low fat, low anything. I’ve been there, tried that.
    Full fat dairy doesn’t fatten me, it’s proved. Low carb make me feel so miserable, no energy, feeling like an old dirty bag, I won’t even think of trying it once again.
    Low fat? Nope, limited yes, but not low. I like too much my whole fat dairy, my sofrito sauce, my avocado and my olive oil salad dressing and it seems science is on my side this time.
    I’m not saying that these diets won’t work. I’m saying that they didn’t work for me on a long term. And let’s be honest, we don’t know their effects on a long term, if somehow one manages to follow them a long, long way.
  • Any restriction that will make me hungry won’t work. But fasting, the Romanian traditional way, deserves a second look. I’ll deal with this later, not now.

Next, I need some serious advice or, maybe, a trusted tool to calculate how much I need to eat to survive, do my daily chores, exercise
I’ll cross-check  the number of calories obtained with the figures recommended by a trusted  health organisation or site.

The best method of assessing the basic energy needs, those necessary for my body to function when resting,  is in a metabolic lab through the doubly-labelled water technique. Maybe one day I’ll have access to this method but for the moment all I have are some formulas, supposed to be quite good.
Like the The Cunningham Formula (Resting Metabolic Rate RMR):

RMR = 500 + (22 x LBM) where LBM = lean body mass in Kg

All you need is a good scale to tell you how much fat you have in your body.
Some refer to this formula as the Basic Metabolic Rate or BMR.
I’m not so sure how accurate is this formula, as far as I know,  fat cells do need also some energy for daily chemical reactions.

To this BMR I have to add the calories for my daily activities and here comes trouble.

How much calories do I spend in my daily activities? Almost impossible to tell, I’m not a robot, I’m not either a fitness freak. Some days I do exercise more, or do heavy housework, other days I spend mostly in front of a computer with just half an hour walk.

Here’s another nice formula I’ve found on the net and I wonder what can I make of it:

Daily energy requirement = BMR + thermic effect of food + NEAT

The thermic effect of food is the  energy we spend for digestion, absorption, and disposal of the food we eat. A commonly used estimate of the thermic effect of food is about 10% of one’s caloric intake, though it varies substantially for different foods or nutrients. For example, dietary fat is very easy to process and has very little thermic effect (may be as low as 5%), while protein is hard to process and has a much larger thermic effect, up to 35%. You’d better read more in Wikipedia, quite an interesting subject
For the moment, I’ll stick to the 10% figure. This means that if I eat 2000 kcal a day, 200 Kcal will be burned by the body just processing my food.

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.  This is the energy we need each day for non-exercise daily activities.

Move a Little, Lose a Lot: New N.E.A.T. Science Reveals How to Be Thinner, Happier, and Smarter by [Levine Md, James, Selene Yeager]
See this book on Amazon
According to Dr. James Levine, the Mayo Clinic researcher who is currently studying this phenomenon, NEAT can vary between two people of similar size by up to 2,000 calories a day. One study that measured NEAT in lean and obese people, all of whom were sedentary and had similar jobs, found that lean people stood or walked more than two hours longer each day than obese people.

If I take this very seriously, it means that maybe not only my slow metabolism might be a cause for my weight problems, but also my “slow” NEAT.


I’ve attempted to calculate my daily energy requirement with the aid of this book “Move a little, Lose a lot” by James A Levine and the site

Somehow I’ve obtained a total of 2300 kCal, exercises not included, of course, nor the “hard working” house chores (see on how many calories these might burn)
I’m amazed because up till now I’ve been striving to stay between 1800  – 2000 kcal, recommended by other sites and diets. This has been the calories number for me, for losing weight. It hasn’t work so far but I haven’t get fatter either. I’m stuck on a plateau.

I’m not sure what to do with my new calorie total. I can do it easily but… isn’t it too much? I don’t know what science is behind this number and most probably it is not accurate.
I won’t lose more time on this, I’ll start with a bit less, 2200, because webmd is recommending this number of calories for my sex and age (I’ve had a lot of good advice from them). However, I won’t eat all of the 2200 kCal  unless hungry. If after increasing my daily calories, the scale will start to show more, I’ll simply adjust this number.
While it’s so hard to get rid of surplus pounds, one can very quickly put on so it’ll be easy to spot if I’m eating too much.

I’d better focus  on improving gradually my NEAT. I’ll start with finding activities that burn more calories than just sitting and watching TV or using the computer.
And I’ll keep in mind what I’ve already discovered, that what I eat is more important than how much I eat.


  • Get rid of what did not work in the past. Like, eating less, eating low fat, eating low carb a.s.o.
  • Find your basic energy needs. You need a performant scale for this or access to a metabolic lab.
  • If you’ve chosen to calculate yourself your BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate), you can use the Cunningham formula:
    BMR = 500 + (22 x LBM) where LBM = lean body mass in Kg
  • The thermic effect of food is the  energy we spend for digestion, absorption, and disposal of the food we eat. A commonly used estimate of the thermic effect of food is about 10% of one’s caloric intake
  • Calculate NEAT, The Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is the energy we need each day for non-exercise daily activities. You’ll find the calories needed for various daily activities on this site
  • Calculate your Daily energy requirement, using this formula
    Daily energy requirement = BMR + thermic effect of food + NEAT
  • On the days you exercise, add the calories needed for each type of exercise. You can find them here
  • Review the calorie number obtained by cross-checking with the figures provided by health organisations or trusted sites.
  • You might consider keeping  a journal and reviewing this calorie limit weekly. Adjust if necessary.
  • More important, improve your NEAT. Find more daily activities to keep you moving.
    Also, keep in mind that what you eat is more important than how much you eat.

The Science Behind

The Science of Why Caloric Restriction Fails

Dr. Jason Fung – Nephrologist, 2017, Better Humans Coach

Our body acts much more like a thermostat. That is, the body seems to have a certain Body Set Weight (BSW). Any attempts to increase above this BSW will result in our body trying to return to its original weight by increasing TEE (increasing metabolism to burn off the excess calories).
Any attempts to decrease below this BSW will result in our body trying to return to its original weight by decreasing TEE (decreasing metabolism to regain lost calories). No wonder it is so hard to keep the weight off! As we slow our metabolism, we must further and further reduce our caloric intake to maintain weight loss.

The truth about low-fat foods

By Kerry Torrens – Nutritional therapist, 2016, BBC Good Food

Certain fats, like those in nuts, seeds and oily varieties of fish provide essential fatty acids (including the omega-3 variety). These essential fats are important for maintaining healthy blood vessels, making hormones and for the correct functioning of our nervous system. The fat in our diet also helps us absorb certain vitamins, the fat-soluble ones, which include A, D, E and K. Following a very low-fat diet makes you more likely to be low in these vitamins and that can impact your immunity, limit the body’s ability to heal itself and have an influence on bone health.

Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you?

By Marcelo Campos, MD, 2017, Health Harvard

A ketogenic diet could be an interesting alternative to treat certain conditions, and may accelerate weight loss. But it is hard to follow and it can be heavy on red meat and other fatty, processed, and salty foods that are notoriously unhealthy. We also do not know much about its long-term effects, probably because it’s so hard to stick with that people can’t eat this way for a long time. It is also important to remember that “yo-yo diets” that lead to rapid weight loss fluctuation are associated with increased mortality. Instead of engaging in the next popular diet that would last only a few weeks to months (for most people that includes a ketogenic diet), try to embrace change that is sustainable over the long term. A balanced, unprocessed diet, rich in very colorful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and lots of water seems to have the best evidence for a long, healthier, vibrant life.

Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?

By James Vlahos, 2011, New York Times Magazine

Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”
Working late one night at 3 a.m., Dr. Levine coined a name for the concept of reaping major benefits through thousands of minor movements each day: NEAT, which stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. In the world of NEAT, even the littlest stuff matters.

Eating less not the best way to lose weight, study shows

By Ana Sandoiu, 1918, Medical News Today

“The results show that choosing healthy, lower-calorie-dense foods was more effective and more sustainable than just trying to resist large portions of higher calorie options. If you choose high-calorie-dense foods but restrict the amount that you’re eating, portions will be too small, and you’re likely to get hungry,” Zuraikat goes on.

Barbara Rolls, a professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State and a co-author on the study, also  chimes in.
“The study supports the idea that eating less of the higher-calorie-dense foods and more of the nutritious, lower-calorie-dense foods can help to manage hunger while consuming fewer calories. You still have a full plate,” she adds, “but you’re changing the proportions of the different types of foods.”


Photo Emilia Dragne


Walking the Calories

It’s Sunday, it’s late morning and it’s raining a lot but my feet are telling me they feel like walking in the nearby beautiful park. Walking in the rain? Why not, I have an umbrella. The fresh hot coffee afterwards makes me already smile. Also, the thought that I’ll burn some of those nasty calories I managed to eat the evening before.

When I started the difficult road from fat to fit, I was in an extremely bad shape and was sure I didn’t had the time or mindset or anything in my power to exercise.

And…I was convinced exercising is useless in a diet. “Just eat less”.
And… I find jogging, aerobic and other “extreme” fitness chores even now boring. Sorry folks, I can’t help it.Then I’ve stumbled upon some interesting and useful science items on the net.
To make a long story short, you don’t need extreme fitness (although if you do it, bravo for you). Just walking for at least half an hour can help a lot.
But you have to do it every day. No use walking only in weekends. Walking every day is not an easy thing to do in the beginning if you are a computer or TV freak, if you have a very busy office life or if you have quite a lot of excess fat (a nice way to say you’re really too fat to move easily).
Sometimes you need outside help, like a friends group or a forum to keep you moving.
Some forums are very supportive, excellent ideas and a lot of advice.  Try, for example,
Just walking might be boring, if you don’t have some friends to walk with. Here comes technology to the rescue. Try any mobile device with music, audio books or radio programmes.
Investing in a pedometer has been one of my best ideas so far. I’ve started very low, less than 2000 steps a day and increased the number from week to week.
I love my little green fitbit froggy but any other pedometer will do.
Photo Emilia Dragne

In my experience walking is good for your feet and brain but it’s not enough for your body.  You need more to feel fit and wit and you need to build some muscle.
A bit of gymnastics will come naturally. Simple exercises like cycling now and then on a static bicycle, some exercises with small weights. Any kind of physical activity will do, in fact, including dancing, cleaning your house, shopping, gardening etc.
A sport, any sport, will do wonders for your body.
I’ve  been lucky that I’m a nut about swimming. Must have been a duck in a previous life. I’ve enrolled in a swimming club (not easy to find and quite expensive in Bucharest but cheaper than doctors and medicine).
From time to time I  manage to find some pond, lake or sea to swim a whole day long.

A few days ago, I’ve analyzed the data in my daily journal.
Such a journal is extremely useful for your diet. Besides controlling better what you eat and drink, it’s vital to look from time to time at historic data. They can tell a lot, even  if you don’t  have the basic knowledge of statistics and Excel.
For example, my journal  shows that the best recipe in a month to put a pound on is to eat a bit more, whatever healthy food,  while exercising too little or at all.
Calories do matter, take them for a walk.


  • Start walking. Start with 20 minutes every other day and increase this from week to week. 
  • Try to find a community of people helping each other to become fit to support you: a forum on the net, friends, relatives, a club, a team.
  • Put technology to work and invest in a mobile device with music or audio books or radio.
  • Invest also in a pedometer (step counter) device. 
  • Find other opportunities of physical activity, even if this means just cleaning your house or shopping.
  • Try to find a sport you can afford and enjoy.
  • Aim for at least 90 minutes daily of physical activity.
  • On days you eat or drink more than you’d need to (like a party or some emotional burst for ex.)  try to exercise a lot more. Dance, swim, walk as much as possible a.s.o. A couple of days will do the trick and bring you back on the path.
  • Keep a “diet journal” and review it from time to tome.
Photo Emilia Dragne


The Science behind all these

Is diet or exercise more important in combating obesity?
“Diet and exercise has the same importance if you are trying to lose weight.
Research shows physical exercise on its own or diet on its own is not an effective weight
loss strategy, they need to be combined. Weight loss will only be achieved if energy input
(food and drink) is lower than the total energy expenditure ( activity of daily life and physical
activity). Research shows that to lose weight you need to exercise more than 60-90
minutes/day at moderate intensity if energy ( food and drink) intake is not modified.”

Epigenetic Changes to Fat Cells Following Exercise
The cells of the body contain DNA, which contains genes. We inherit our genes and they cannot be changed. The genes, however, have ‘methyl groups’ attached which affect what is known as ‘gene expression’ — whether the genes are activated or deactivated. The methyl groups can be influenced in various ways, through exercise, diet and lifestyle, in a process known as ‘DNA methylation’. This is epigenetics, a relatively new research field that in recent years has attracted more and more attention.

All Fat Is Not Bad: Study Shows Exercise Creates “Good Fat”
“Our work provides greater motivation than ever to get out there and exercise,” Stanford
These studies suggest that even if you’re not losing weight, exercise is still training your fat to be more metabolically active; even if you don’t see the results on the scale, you are still improving your overall metabolism and therefore your health.

Long, Low Intensity Exercise May Have More Health Benefits Relative to Short, Intense Workouts
Standing and walking for longer stretches improves insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels more than an hour of intense exercise each day does, but only if the calories spent in both forms of exercise are similar.

A Dash for Mediterranean Lifestyle

Maybe you’ve read about the Mediterranean Diet and Dash Diet, the healthiest diets for this year.

Mediterranean Lifestyle, there’s nothing more I would like for my healthy life.
Lots of fish, veggies and fruits, olive oil, yogurt and a good cheese now and them. A nice blue sea to swim, a good wine and more leisure in my life. Sitting with family and friends at lunch….Sounds like a holiday.
But… can you do it like this? Nope, not unless you’re very rich or live on the Mediterranean Seaside. I’m not.
What about the DASH lifestyle? Well, this I can do and actually did.
And…it didn’ t work for me, no lost pounds, not feeling better either.

However I need some diet rules, I need to know the “when and what and how much”.
The diet which I’ve adopted a long time ago and I’m adapting all the time, The South Beach Diet,  has been good enough to stop me from putting on.
But it seems I’m on a plateau, and honestly, a bit tired of dieting..

Most of the days, my diet is nowadays something like this:
Breakfast: 1 portion proteins (including diary), 1 portion carbs, 1 portion veggies, between 400 – 500 kCal
Lunch: a soup (veggies and/ or meat or beans), 1 portion proteins (meat, beans, diary or cheese), 1-2 portion veggies, 1 fruit, 1 portion carbs, between 600 – 800 kcal.
Five o’clock snack:  1 fruit, 1 whole fat diary, 1 portion carbs, around 300 kcal
Dinner: 1 portion protein (meat, beans, cheese, diary), 1 veggie or a fruit, 1 portion carbs maybe. Between 300 – 500 Kcal week.

One fasting day a week (no animal products) and one fish day a week.
At least twice a week a tomato sauce.
Trying hard to exercise more, at least 2 hours, plus 2-3 hours a day standing, doing some house working or walking.

I need fresh ideas, some changes in my lifestyle. I’d take a closer look at what are considered now “the best diets”.

The DASH Diet


There is no meal plan on the DASH Diet, actually. And it’s a lot more than I’ve ever had. This seems to me a fattening diet, honestly.  And one can easily build a most unhealthy menu. Like drinking daily 2-3 cups of fruit juice, eating almost daily 2 tbsps of peanut butter, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp of mayo, 1 stake, 8 slices of bread,  1 cup of dried fruits, several portions of potatoes (considered ordinary vegetables?!) a.s.o.
No wonder this didn’t work for me. More than 2 carb portions at a meal tend to spike my blood sugar, especially if I start my meal with carbs.
Plus, it seems to me it’s a bit outdated.
Eating low-fat diary? Eating less eggs because they have cholesterol? Nope, I don’t think so.
Anyway, I eat a lot more veggies, a veggie portion for me is 200g, a lot more than DASH veggie portions.
One good idea in this diet is to limit salt, which I already do. Nothing new.

Mediterranean Diet

Let’s take a closer look at the Mediterranean Diet.
Actually what we are being told in so many studies and articles is that it’s high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil and low on meats and diary.
Is it so?

Here is The Mediterranean {Pyramid of Greece


And you might want to answer the Predimed Questionnaire of adherence to a Spanish Mediterranean Diet:



I don’t see any “dont’s” on diary, eggs, cheese in these presentations.  And going to Greece, Spain, France, there are high chances you will eat lots of cheese and whole fat yogurt.

Photo by Dana Tentis from Pexels

Principles are fine, research is on the Mediterranean side. Still, there’s no meal plan, no calories limit, one can easily get fat with this “diet” too.


Actually these are not diets for weight loss, rather general principles for a healthy life.
So what am I gone do?

For the moment I’ll stick to my diet, which I’ve been building for several years now.
It seems I’ve already adopted most of the Mediterranean Diet principles and I eat less salt than anyone in my friends and family circle.

What I’m going to change a bit is the “what”: the ingredients and the recipes.
Instead of  subtracting, I’ll enrich my diet with recipes of the Mediterranean Cuisine.

Photo by Dana Tentis from Pexels





Nature’s Vitamin and Mineral Pills

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I won’t bore you with the vitamin and mineral supplements theory, it’s up to you to have them or not and there’s plenty to read  about on the net on this subject.
Instead, I would like to present you a few of the “nature’s wonder pills”.
The kind of food with so many nutrients packed in a small quantity.
So healthy and tasty,  one should enjoy them quite often.


Peanuts provide over 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients. They’re a good source of many vitamins and minerals and contain 25% protein.
Roasted peanuts rival the antioxidant content of blackberries and strawberries, and are far richer in antioxidants than carrots or beets. Natural sources of fiber and with a very low glycaemic index, they have also the reputation to lower LDL cholesterol.
They are filling,  meaning hunger is tamed for much longer, and therefore fewer calories are consumed in the long-run.



But… there’s always a “but” with good food, isn’t it?
One serving of peanuts should be only a small handful or 2 tbsp of peanut butter.
This means around 200 Kcal. More than that is quite a lot!


Rasberries are included by many among the world’ s healthiest foods. They have a low-glycemic index (so they fill well) and contain among the highest proportion of dietary fiber (20% fiber per total weight).


A portion of raspberries, a bowl, will bring you half of the Vitamin C needed. Raspberries contain a phytochemical, ellagic acid, believed to have anticancer properties.
New research rave about raspberries ketones, stating they’re able to block fat and carbs from being turned into extra pounds.
But don’t rush to buy ketone pills, which might be dangerous to your health, better eat the fruit.
If you buy frozen berries, look at the label and make sure sugar and additives are not added.

All in all, berries are a great source of antioxidants and should be a part of your recommended daily fruit portions as often as possible.
Try them with yogurt or kefir or cream, best dessert ever.




Pop-corn is naturally high in fiber, minerals and antioxidants, low in calories and free of sugar.
A nice snack, provided you take care what brand you choose.
Sometimes large amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium are added which change it to junk food. Read the label before buying.

And keep this in mind: no more than a bowl, when you’re on diet.




No diet can be imagined without the “magic” beans.
Beans are high in folate, potassium, magnesium and iron.
A serving of beans will help you feel full more quickly, because the rich fiber content fills your stomach and causes a slower rise in blood sugar. That should keep off hunger longer and give you a steady supply of energy.

Photo by Ela Haney from Pexels

Beans come with a nasty side effect, an embarrassing flatulence.
You can reduce this a lot through several cooking techniques:
– Change the water several times during the soaking and cooking process
– After soaking them overnight, change the water, rinse them well.
– Boil them on high heat in lots of water for 10 minutes and through away the resulting liquid. If you have sensible guts, repeat this.
– Combine the beans with legumes like carrots, celeriac and celery, bell peppers and especially tomatoes.
– Add herbs and spices, like thyme and caraway
– Eat them with toast, raw onion or leek and a pickle.
– Drink a small glass of liquor.

Don’t eat too much, they’re also packed with calories.
100 g cooked beans might bring you as much as 300 kcal.

Here’s one delicious quick recipe:

Tuna and Red Beans Salad
Put in a bowl some canned tuna fish, olive oil, scallion or leek cut in 1 inch chunks, a tbsp lemon juice or vinegar. Add a can of red beans or a can of chickpeas, drained and rinced. Toss gently. That’s all folks, enjoy.

And don’t forget, Nature’s pills are more effective if you keep moving!




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