Thursday, November 25, 2010

Body Weight, BMI, and Body Composition

Nutrition is a hot topic.  There is so much misinformation out there that trying to make heads and tails of it is almost impossible.  So, this is my attempt to give you all a starting point when considering a nutrition or fitness program by helping demystify some common measures of health.

Body Weight

Most people are aiming to "lose weight" without thinking about what that actually means!

Think about it, if I told you Mike weights 230lbs and Jim weighs 180lbs, what does this tell you?  Nothing.  Mike might be a 6'7 basketball player, and Jim might be an obese 8yr old.

Put it this way, would you buy a steak from the supermarket by weight alone?  No way.  You'd want to see if it is mostly fat, or if it was a good lean cut.  Body weight is, by itself, a useless measure of health.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The BMI is simply a ratio of height to weight.  While this does provide one more piece of information, it is equally useless.  Think of the steak example again.  Two boxes are both marked Sirloin: 2lbs, 8in.  Do you think the two are the same?  Not likely.

Body Composition

Body composition is a measure of the relative proportions of fat, muscle, bone, etc. that make up an individual's total mass.  Imagine the steak example again, but this time the following info is provided:

Sirloin A:  2lbs, 60% Fat, 30% Lean, 10% other
Sirloin B:  2lbs, 15% Fat, 70% Lean, 15% other

Although you'd still like to see the cuts (nobody wants green meat), you now have enough information to make a wise nutritional decision.


If you are looking to get healthier, throw your scale out the window.  It is a dirty liar, and it will only make you feel horrible about yourself.

You should be concerned about FAT LOSS not WEIGHT LOSS.  Find yourself a cheap pair of fat calipers... they don't have to be expensive or particularly accurate.  You just want to establish a trend in your measurements... hopefully, a downward one.

Also, find a pair of jeans that are 1-2 sizes smaller than your current size.  Try them on once every other week.  You will be surprised to find how much progress you are making even though you don't FEEL like your losing much.

Making the decision to get healthy is hard enough.  Don't let your scale mislead or derail you.  You can do it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Drumroll please...

All grades are posted, and I made all A's this semester!!

As usual, my neuroticism was completely unfounded.  I ended up with a class high, 103 on my Organic Chemistry final.  Needless to say, I am pretty proud of that.

So, with Microbio and O-chem I behind me, it's on to Anatomy & Physiology and O-chem part deux.  I just confirmed with my advisor that I am on track to graduate in the Spring with a BS in Biology w/ a Chemistry minor.

On a completely unrelated note, I am taking Spanish.  I only mention this because I found out something interesting as I perused the online book.  Since I took this class in high school, two letters of the Spanish alphabet have been omitted... the "ch" and the "ll."

A fundamental change in a world language has taken place since I was in high school... now I REALLY feel old.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Parkinson's vs. Essential Tremor

My wife's grandmother has been experiencing what we all assumed to be the beginnings of Parkinson's for about 3-4 years now.  However, after a recent study of Shingles in my Microbiology class, I was curious if nerve damage during her bouts of this disease could be causing her tremor symptoms.

My professor agreed that it could indeed be responsible, so I did a bit more digging.  Apparently, there is a disease called Essential Tremor.  This disease, while 10 times more common than Parkinson's, is frequently overlooked and is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's.

So, what piqued my curiosity?  First, it struck me that her symptoms had not progressed much since we first noticed them.  Then, the symptoms themselves are not consistent with Parkinson's.  Usually, Parkinson's sufferers experience tremors while at rest.  The most obvious is the tell-tale "pill rolling" motion in the hands.  Her hands are quite still at rest.  Further, the tremor that is most obvious is a rhythmic, "no no" shaking of the head.  This is atypical of Parkinson's as well.

Her symptoms seem much more characteristic of essential tremor, particulary something called Postural Tremor, or tremors that occur as a result of opposition to gravity.  Her hands exhibit some trembling, but not at rest.  So far, I have not mentioned my suspicions to her because I don't want to prematurely negate her doctor's opinion.  However, given my research into the subject so far, I am inclined to bring it up and see if she will allow me to observe some specific actions that may confirm my suspicions.

First, the manner in which the hand tremors manifest themselves is important.  Adduction and abduction of the digits are characteristic of Essential Tremor, while supination/pronation is not.  Imagine holding an imaginary glass of water in your hand out in front of your body.  If the hands tremor in a way that is similar to turning a doorknob back and forth, it is characteristic of Parkinson's.

Now imagine holding your hand out flat (palm down and parallel with the floor) in front of you, and spreading your fingers out slightly.  If the fingers tend to be "jumpy/jittery" as they oscillate toward and away from each other (think of the scissor motion in rock-paper-scissors), this is characteristic of Essential Tremor.

Anyway, I will let you know how it goes.

FYI:  I have linked the relevant diseases here to the MayoClinic website for more info.  Also, the following video is a great starting point for understanding the subtle differences between Parkinson's and Essential Tremor:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Well, finals week is upon me yet again.  I felt ultra-prepared for Microbio this morning until I ran into 5 questions regarding our lab.  He NEVER gives questions about lab, so I never even reviewed it!  Oh, well.  I think I did excellent aside from that.

O-chem was more difficult.  I don't think the class is hard so much as the lecture doesn't really prepare you for the test.  I found myself questioning myself the whole way through.  However, I didn't need much to secure an A, so I'm sure that will turn out just fine.

Tomorrow, I finish up psychology and biology.  It's been a LONG semester.  With the job situation and everything, life has been quite stressful.  I hope the results of this term will be a testament to my commitment and ability.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Almost there

It's been a while since my last post, so there is much to catch up on.

I will be finishing up the Fall 2010 semester next week.  I have now completed 67 credit hours, and the majority of my pre-med requirements with all "A"s.  I have completed the MCAT (24Q) - not bad for not having had microbio or organic at the time!

I was invited to interview at UNMC last Friday and had a BLAST!  I have completed my secondary app for Creighton SOM, but haven't gotten an interview invite as of yet.  UNMC said they will be contacting applicants beginning in December, but notifications may be as late as March 2011.  I hope I won't have to wait that long.

I recently quit the railroad.  They were going to force me to work about 3.5hrs from Omaha, and I couldn't do it.  I'd never see my family, and school would be impossible.  So, my path has been chosen... there's no going back.

As I look back at where I began, I am even more proud of how far I have come.  God willing, all of the sacrifices I've made will pay off and around this time next year, I'll be describing my first year of medical school!