Monday, December 26, 2011

Following

Now and then my wife and I take long walks together.  We tend to enjoy each other's company, but now and then my darling suddenly perceives what is, in her opinion, the most faultless route forward and without warning or consultation- Tra-la-la! she bolts, cutting diagonally across an intersection while I wait for the big orange hand to turn into the white hunchback with no hands.  She's often astonished that I'm not right on her heels as she reaches the other side, but continues on her way, marching to the beat of that different drummer (who I'd pay generously for lessons.)



I wasn't consulted, asked, or even forewarned!  Last I checked, that wedding ring was on a finger, not in my nose with a chain dangling from it!  And so usually goes my line of thinking.  Experience has taught me that in order to train a puppy not to jump up on people, you must refuse to pet it when it attempts to get attention that way.  I sometimes try to apply the same logic to my marriage, with mixed results. . . the mix usually amounting to a Molotov cocktail.  I'm not about to run after her now with my tail between my legs and make her think she can just drag me wherever she likes. . . .

Both of us stubbornly stomp forward-  in the same general direction, on opposite sides of the street.  One of us usually has custody of our border collie, Daisy- so she's understandably confused and acting erratically at the end of her leash.  Embarassed, I try to look nonchalant, hoping passers-by will assume we are total strangers. . . asking God to reroute anyone who actually knows us and could potentially drive past.  I watch the woman in my peripheral, she glances at me every 10 steps, wondering if I'll cave.  I don't dare make direct eye contact.

Sometimes we're in awkward lockstep-  the invisible band of tension between us surely cinching up shoulders of drivers who roll through our emotional gauntlet.  On occasion the split turns into a race.  I quicken my pace in an effort to make our association less apparent.  She reciprocates and accelerates.  My mind races too, as I aim to prove that I can find an even more efficient place to cross the street than she did, and make it to the front steps of our house first.  I vainly hope she will somehow regret not staying next to me, or at least sweetly suggesting an alternate route before taking one.

Lately God has turned this particular recurring circus act of ours into a parable of sorts for me.  One morning during my quiet time when I was pondering the depravity of woman He drove home a painful point with a simple question- How many times have you done that to Me?

Ouch.

When my wife leaves my side without warning to blaze her own trail without me, it hurts-  to a degree because I love her and feel a twinge of disrespect,  but it usually amounts to a flesh-wound as I grovel in wounded pride. On the other hand, when  I choose to leave God's preferred path for my life, He hurts because He loves me with a perfect, redeeming, jealous love and knows that when I duck out from under his wing I'm asking for a world of hurt.  For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

How often have I taken the initiative without consulting my Lord and Savior?  I've become involved in time-wasting hobbies,  made frivolous purchases, spoken careless or hurtful words, watched or read unwholesome material, and more.  At times I've been spiritually absentminded;  at other points I've been afraid to consult with the creator of the universe, having already made up my mind and afraid to ask-  for then my rebellion will become even more blatantly stark. 

In hindsight, the idea of fearing any potential discomfort associated with what God might ask us to do (or not do) more than God Himself is what's truly scary.  Lately I've been meditating on what it might really be like to literally live by Luke 11:27-28
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Right! Jesus told him. Do this and you will live!
Talk about salt and light!  If all my strength and all my mind were devoted to loving the Lord, that might crowd out quite a few things that I currently have time and energy devoted to.  I really want to live life in such intimate communion with the Holy Spirit that God's Glory, my neighbor's destiny, and my church family's well-being genuinely and completely dwarf my career ambitions, hobbies, personal curiosities, and lust for self-sufficiency. . . but I got a Kindle for Christmas. . . and downloaded Angry Birds.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Heather's Home 2011

My wife and I recently spent a week in Haiti with Reverend John Early, the founder of Heather's Home Orphanage, running rice to other children's homes in the area and loving on the kids at HH.  It was an amazing week.  Just to see what God's doing there through Pastor and Madame Pastor Eugloge (the native houseparents) was worth the trip.  It's technically an orphanage-  but resembles a big, happy, organic, Christ-centered family. . .   I can't wait to go back!  Here's the photojournal from our trip via YouTube:

 
 
 
One of the many highlights of the week was being there to welcome Geudit and Woodly into the family.  Tragically, their mother died in the earthquake when the building she worked in downtown collapsed.  Her husband was on his own with 12 children to care for and no job- desperate for help.  With a friend of his providing directions we drove through a maze of tent cities and destruction to the sagging house he was still living in.
 
The man urged us to take his four youngest, but two were all we could manage with current resources.  Woodly (3 1/2) and Geudit (2 1/2) were both weak, the boy severely bloated from either contaminated water or some other sort of malnutrition.  Having the privilege to pick up little Geudit and carry her over to Madame Eugloge, waiting in the rented SUV that would carry those children to a brand new life was definitely one of the top 10 moments in my life so far.

When we arrived back at the orphanage the power had gone out, but the the children were on the front porch singing in the dark as we got out of the car with their new brother and sister.  Guilene (the oldest girl) instantly adopted Geudit.  All of the boys gathered around Woodly and showed him the shared stash of toys that he was now free to play with.  I couldn't help but marvel at the love those kids exhibited in their new siblings' warm welcome.  
 
For the next two days Geudit and Woodly played a little, and ate and slept a lot.  Woodly's bloated belly was almost back to kid-size by the time we left, and both kids had bright smiles on their faces.
 
If you'd like to learn more about Heather's Home, please check out the latest on the Facebook page here.  There's also a website at http://www.heathers-home.org/  with a photo gallery to introduce you to the kids and a Paypal link for donations.  When it comes to the latest news, the website is in serious need of an update, though, so I'd recommend going to the Facebook page for the latest information.
The building that houses the orphanage is currently a rented half of a duplex.  In Haiti, rent for the entire year is paid up front-  for HH, it's due January 10th and runs between 4 and 5 thousand dollars. That's a looming financial hurdle considering the fact that everything that's been coming in is sucked up quickly by the cost of rice, beans, toothpaste, doctor bills, and school tuition for 12 kids.
 
Rev. Early isn't good at asking for money.  He has 4 kids of his own, and a small construction business that felt the pangs of the recession just like the rest of us here in the states.  With so many other philanthropic entities clamoring for spare change, the thought of actively scrapping for alms amongst the big dogs with their TV commercials and nationwide mailing lists is daunting. He doesn't want anyone at our church to feel obligated to give just because they see this orphanage as his pet project, either.
 
I'm not any better than Rev. Early is at asking for money, and I'm not going to attempt it here.  God gets the glory for faithfully meeting the needs at Heather's Home and I know that He will continue to faithfully provide.  That said, having been there and witnessed a seed planted that will raise up educated and spiritually equipped children who have the potential to make a lasting difference and change their own nation for the better, I'm personally going to be giving more, going more, and encouraging others to do the same.  
 
If God so chooses to use my feeble whisper of a post pitched into the hurricane of the internet to touch the hearts of others who are interested in going and doing; sending and giving; or both,  then Amen!
 
 
 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Paleo: Why it Works

As a Christian, I admittedly don't buy into the evolutionary flim flam that so often seems a default side-note in the theoretical tackle box of many mainstream paleo-eating advocates.  Every couple of years we find another skeleton in the mud somewhere that changes everything science had been preaching as fact for the previous 12 months.  (side note:  this is an interesting blurb by another paleo/Christian on the topic of faith and food.)

I do buy into the paleo-logical fact that mankind is older than grain-harvesting en-mass and processed foods-  people did eat before chemistry and combines came along.  However, I don't think we have to look back a million years to see some logical reasons why the paleo approach can work for weight loss, maintenance, and overall health.



Have you seen the documentary Fathead yet?  If not, you should.  Then, if you're into science and nutrition, read up on The Zone.  You'll notice pretty quickly that, in Fathead, Tom Naughton was essentially making choices at fast food restaurants that kept his carbohydrate/fat/protein ratio and calorie count within Zone parameters.

Anyone who's tried it will probably attest to the fact that staying in the Zone is enormously inconvenient to accomplish due to all of the label-reading and calorie counting involved.  When I tried it, I eventually ended up with a go-to list of recipes and over time got sick of having to choose between eating the same old stuff, or crunching numbers to come up with something fresh.

Think about paleo for a second:  exclude grains, processed foods, and sugar from your diet.  If you're a well balanced paleo-eater then all of your carbs from hearty portions of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, naturally loaded with fiber, which makes it almost impossible to get out of the Zone.  Cavemen who go bacon or steak-crazy and exclude fruits and other high GI foods in an effort to lose weight usually achieve ketosis- essentially slipping into the Atkins diet.

 get the shirt here

I'm convinced that anyone who is overweight, if they have the willpower to give up grains and sugar, can easily lose poundage, keeping themselves somewhere within the spectrum between the Zone and ketosis by eating the paleo way.  Throw in a little intermittent fasting (IF) to give the calorie deficit a boost (and your body a chance to det-tox) and excess pounds should melt away.  Intermittent fasting is another idea that a lot of paleo-eaters like to experiment with.  For more on that, check out Lean Gains-  a great blog full of science behind the benefits of giving your digestive system a break now and then.

It's been nice to land squarely in Technorati's top 100 list for health blogs over the last couple of months, but I can only stay on one topic for so long.  I have a bit more up my sleeve, but there are more important things in life than dietary speculation.  Expect to see the subject matter branch out a bit over the next few weeks on One Face.






Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Gateway Foods" and Dr. Cordain's Letter

Mark and I must be on the same wavelength, he saved me a lot of work with his post today on "Gateway Foods"- a good follow-up to yesterday's here.

Also, Robb Wolf has featured a good retaliatory piece in light Paleo's low ranking, and encouraged re-posting of the centerpiece- a letter from Dr. Loren Cordain- so here it is:



June 8, 2011

Hi Seth,

Good to hear from you and many thanks for your continued support of the Paleo Diet.  I hadn’t seen this piece, but I appreciate that you have brought it to my attention.  It is obvious that whoever wrote this piece did not do their homework and has not read the peer review scientific papers which have examined contemporary diets based upon the Paleolithic food groups which shaped the genomes of our ancestors.  Accordingly the writer’s conclusions are erroneous and misleading.  I feel strongly that it is necessary to point out these errors and make this information known to a much wider audience than those reached by the readers of the U.S. News and World Report.  You have my permission to syndicate my response and or your write up for the CSU Collegian to any of the major news services including AP and UPI.  Additionally, I will copy a number of colleagues and scientists worldwide with this message to ensure that it will be widely circulated on the web, blogs and chat groups.
The writer of this article suggests that the Paleo Diet has only been scientifically tested in “one tiny study”.  This quote is incorrect as five studies (1-7); four since 2007, have experimentally tested contemporary versions of ancestral human diets and have found them to be superior to Mediterranean diets, diabetic diets and typical western diets in regards to weight loss, cardiovascular disease risk factors and risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
The first study to experimentally test diets devoid of grains, dairy and processed foods was performed by Dr. Kerin O’Dea at the University of Melbourne and published in the Journal, Diabetes in 1984 (6).  In this study Dr. O’Dea gathered together 10 middle aged Australian Aborigines who had been born in the “Outback”.  They had lived their early days primarily as hunter gatherers until they had no choice but to finally settle into a rural community with access to western goods.  Predictably, all ten subjects eventually became overweight and developed type 2 diabetes as they adopted western sedentary lifestyles in the community of Mowwanjum in the northern Kimberley region of Western Australia.  However, inherent in their upbringing was the knowledge to live and survive in this seemingly desolate land without any of the trappings of the modern world.
Dr. O’Dea requested these 10 middle aged subjects to revert to their former lives as hunter gatherers for a seven week period.  All agreed and traveled back into the isolated land from which they originated.  Their daily sustenance came only from native foods that could be foraged, hunted or gathered.  Instead of white bread, corn, sugar, powdered milk and canned foods, they began to eat the traditional fresh foods of their ancestral past: kangaroos, birds, crocodiles, turtles, shellfish, yams, figs, yabbies (freshwater crayfish), freshwater bream and bush honey.   At the experiment’s conclusion, the results were spectacular, but not altogether unexpected given what known about Paleo diets, even then.  The average weight loss in the group was 16.5 lbs; blood cholesterol dropped by 12 % and triglycerides were reduced by a whopping 72 %.  Insulin and glucose metabolism became normal, and their diabetes effectively disappeared.
The first recent study to experimentally test contemporary Paleo diets was published in 2007 (5). Dr. Lindeberg and associates placed 29 patients with type 2 diabetes and heart disease on either a Paleo diet or a Mediterranean diet based upon whole grains, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruits, fish, oils, and margarines.  Note that the Paleo diet excludes grains, dairy products and margarines while encouraging greater consumption of meat and fish.  After 12 weeks on either diet blood glucose tolerance (a risk factor for heart disease) improved in both groups, but was better in the Paleo dieters.  In a  2010 follow-up publication, of this same experiment the Paleo diet was shown to be more satiating on a calorie by calorie basis than the Mediterranean diet because it caused greater changes in leptin, a hormone which regulates appetite and body weight.
In the second modern study (2008) of Paleo Diets, Dr. Osterdahl and co-workers (7) put 14 healthy subjects on a Paleo diet.  After only three weeks the subjects lost weight, reduced their waist size and experienced significant reductions in blood pressure, and plasminogen activator inhibitor (a substance in blood which promotes clotting and accelerates artery clogging).  Because no control group was employed in this study, some scientists would argue that the beneficial changes might not necessarily be due to the Paleo diet.  However, a better controlled more recent experiments showed similar results.
In 2009, Dr. Frasetto and co-workers (1) put nine inactive subjects on a Paleo diet for just 10 days.  In this experiment, the Paleo diet was exactly matched in calories with the subjects’ usual diet.  Anytime people eat diets that are calorically reduced, no matter what foods are involved, they exhibit beneficial health effects.  So the beauty of this experiment was that any therapeutic changes in the subjects’ health could not be credited to reductions in calories, but rather to changes in the types of food eaten.  While on the Paleo diet either eight or all nine participants  experienced improvements in blood pressure, arterial function, insulin, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.  What is striking about this experiment is how rapidly so many markers of health improved, and that they occurred in every single patient.
In an even more convincing recent (2009) experiment, Dr. Lindeberg and colleagues (2) compared the effects of a Paleo diet to a diabetes diet generally recommended for patients with type 2 diabetes.  The diabetes diet was intended to reduce total fat by increasing whole grain bread and cereals, low fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables while restricting animal foods.   In contrast, the Paleo diet was lower in cereals, dairy products, potatoes, beans, and bakery foods but higher in fruits, vegetables, meat, and eggs compared to the diabetes diet.  The strength of this experiment was its cross over design in which all 13 diabetes patients first ate one diet for three months and then crossed over and ate the other diet for three months.  Compared to the diabetes diet, the Paleo diet resulted in improved weight loss, waist size, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c (a marker for long term blood glucose control).    This experiment represents the most powerful example to date of the Paleo diet’s effectiveness in treating people with serious health problems.
So, now that I have summarized the experimental evidence supporting the health and weight loss benefits of Paleo Diets, I would like to directly respond to the errors in the U.S. News and World Report article.

1.            “Will you lose weight? No way to tell.”
Obviously, the author of this article did not read either the study by O’Dea (6) or the more powerful three month crossover experiment by Jonsson and colleagues (9) which demonstrated the superior weight loss potential of high protein, low glycemic load Paleo diets.  Similar results of high protein, low glycemic load diets have recently been reported in the largest randomized controlled trials ever undertaken in both adults and children.
A 2010 randomized trial involving 773 subjects and published in the New England Journal of Medicine (8) confirmed that high protein, low glycemic index diets were the most effective strategy to keep weight off.   The same beneficial effects of high protein, low glycemic index diets were dramatically demonstrated in largest nutritional trial, The DiOGenes Study (9), ever conducted in a sample of 827 children. Children assigned to low protein, high glycemic diets became significantly fatter over the 6 month experiment, whereas those overweight and obese children assigned to the high protein, low glycemic nutritional plan lost significant weight.
2.            “Does it have cardiovascular benefits? Unknown.”
This comment shows just how uninformed this writer really is.  Clearly, this person hasn’t read the following papers (1 – 6) which unequivocally show the therapeutic effects of Paleo Diets upon cardiovascular risk factors.
And all that fat would worry most experts.”
This statement represents a “scare tactic” unsubstantiated by the data.  As I, and almost the entire nutritional community,  have previously pointed out, it is not the quantity of fat which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease or cancer, or any other health problem, but rather the quality.  Contemporary Paleo Diets contain high concentrations of healthful omega 3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that actually reduce the risk for chronic disease (10-18).
3.            “Can it prevent or control diabetes? Unknown.”
Here is another example of irresponsible and biased journalism which doesn’t let the facts speak for themselves.  Obviously, the author did not read the study by O’dea (6) or Jonsson et al. (2) which showed dramatic improvements in type 2 diabetics consuming Paleo diets.

but most diabetes experts recommend a diet that includes whole grains and dairy products.
If the truth be known, in a randomized controlled trial, 24 8-y-old boys were asked to take 53 g of protein as milk or meat daily (19).  After only 7 days on the high milk diet, the boys became insulin resistant.  This is a condition that precedes the development of type 2 diabetes.  In contrast, In the meat-group, there was no increase in insulin and insulin resistance.  Further, in the Jonsson et al. study (2) milk and grain free diets were shown to have superior results in improving disease symptoms in type 2 diabetics.
4.            “Are there health risks? Possibly. By shunning dairy and grains, you’re at risk of missing out on a lot of nutrients.”
Once again, this statement shows the writer’s ignorance and blatant disregard for the facts.  Because contemporary ancestral diets exclude processed foods, dairy and grains, they are actually more nutrient (vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals) dense than government recommended diets such as the food pyramid.    I have pointed out these facts in a paper I published in the American Journal of Nutrition in 2005 (13) along with another paper in which I analyzed the nutrient content of modern day Paleo diets (12 ).  Most nutritionists are aware that processed foods made with refined grains, sugars and vegetable oils have low concentrations of vitamins and minerals, but few realized that dairy products and whole grains contain significantly lower concentrations of the 13 vitamins and minerals most lacking in the U.S. diet compared to lean meats, fish and fresh fruit and vegetables (12, 13).
Also, if you’re not careful about making lean meat choices, you’ll quickly ratchet up your risk for heart problems” .
Actually, the most recent comprehensive meta analyses do not show fresh meat consumption whether fat or lean to be a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease (20-25), only processed meats such as salami, bologna, bacon and sausages (20).
References

1.            Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A: Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr 2009.

2.            Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, Branell UC, Pålsson G, Hansson A, Söderström M, Lindeberg S. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009;8:35

3.            Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahren B, Lindeberg S. A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Nov 30;7(1):85

4.            Jonsson T, Ahren B, Pacini G, Sundler F, Wierup N, Steen S, Sjoberg T, Ugander M, Frostegard J, Goransson Lindeberg S: A Paleolithic diet confers higher insulin sensitivity, lower C-reactive protein and lower blood pressure than a cereal-based diet in domestic pigs. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2006, 3:39.

5.            Lindeberg S, Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjostrom K, Ahren B: A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia 2007, 50(9):1795-1807.

6.            O’Dea K: Marked improvement in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic Australian aborigines after temporary reversion to traditional lifestyle. Diabetes 1984, 33(6):596-603.

7.            Osterdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, Wandell PE: Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr 2008, 62(5):682-685.

8.            Larsen TM, Dalskov SM, van Baak M, Jebb SA, Papadaki A, Pfeiffer AF, Martinez JA, Handjieva-Darlenska T, Kunešová M, Pihlsgård M, Stender S, Holst C, Saris WH, Astrup A; Diet, Obesity, and Genes (Diogenes) Project. Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance. N Engl J Med. 2010 Nov 25;363(22):2102-13

9.            Papadaki A, Linardakis M, Larsen TM, van Baak MA, Lindroos AK, Pfeiffer AF, Martinez JA, Handjieva-Darlenska T, Kunesová M, Holst C, Astrup A, Saris WH, Kafatos A; DiOGenes Study Group. The effect of protein and glycemic index on children’s body composition: the DiOGenes randomized study. Pediatrics. 2010 Nov;126(5):e1143-52

10.            Cordain L. Saturated fat consumption in ancestral human diets: implications for contemporary intakes.  In: Phytochemicals, Nutrient-Gene Interactions, Meskin MS, Bidlack WR, Randolph RK (Eds.), CRC Press (Taylor & Francis Group), 2006, pp. 115-126.

11.            Cordain L, Miller JB, Eaton SB, Mann N, Holt SH, Speth JD. Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets.Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Mar;71(3):682-92.

12.            Cordain L. The nutritional characteristics of a contemporary diet based upon Paleolithic food groups. J Am Nutraceut Assoc 2002; 5:15-24.

13.            Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, O’Keefe JH, Brand-Miller J. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;81(2):341-54.

14.            Kuipers RS, Luxwolda MF, Dijck-Brouwer DA, Eaton SB, Crawford MA, Cordain L, Muskiet FA. Estimated macronutrient and fatty acid intakes from an East African Paleolithic diet. Br J Nutr. 2010 Dec;104(11):1666-87.

15.            Ramsden CE, Faurot KR, Carrera-Bastos P, Cordain L, De Lorgeril M, Sperling LS.Dietary fat quality and coronary heart disease prevention: a unified theory based on evolutionary, historical, global, and modern perspectives. Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. 2009 Aug;11(4):289-301.

16.            Cordain L, Eaton SB, Miller JB, Mann N, Hill K. The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diets: meat-based, yet non-atherogenic. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002 Mar;56 Suppl 1:S42-52

17.            Cordain L, Watkins BA, Florant GL, Kelher M, Rogers L, Li Y. Fatty acid analysis of wild ruminant tissues: evolutionary implications for reducing diet-related chronic disease. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002 Mar;56(3):181-91

18.            Carrera-Bastos P, Fontes Villalba M, O’Keefe JH, Lindeberg S, Cordain L. The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization. Res Rep Clin Cardiol 2011; 2: 215-235.

19.            Hoppe C, Mølgaard C, Vaag A, Barkholt V, Michaelsen KF. High intakes of milk, but not meat, increase s-insulin and insulin resistance in 8-year-old boys. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Mar;59(3):393-8.

20.            Micha R, Wallace SK, Mozaffarian D. Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation. 2010 Jun 1;121(21):2271-83

21.            Micha R, Mozaffarian D. Saturated fat and cardiometabolic risk factors, coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: a fresh look at the evidence. Lipids. 2010 Oct;45(10):893-905. Epub 2010 Mar 31.

22.            Mozaffarian D, Micha R, Wallace S. Effects on coronary heart disease of increasing polyunsaturated fat in place of saturated fat: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PLoS Med. 2010 Mar 23;7(3):e1000252.

23.            Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Saturated fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease: modulation by replacement nutrients. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2010 Nov;12(6):384-90.

24.            Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):502-9

25.            Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):535-46

In Defense of Paleo (and bending the rules)

I happened to run across a blurb on US News and World Report's list of the top 20 eating plans today.  Their ranking system is suspicious to say the least, putting Paleo in 20th place, even behind Atkins.  The numbers in the survey are worth noting, though, in that the Paleo Diet only worked for 19% of people who tried it, while the Vegetarian diet (ranked 9th) worked for over 93%.



Paleo understandably got a bad rap for it's difficulty to adhere to, but there was also this, and I quote from this article:
. . . .most versions [of the Paleo diet] didn’t hold true to the Paleo diet plans or rules.
If that's true, then wouldn't it seem that they were never on it in the first place?  Most of the reasoning shown here for the bad rankings seems due to the lack of data from controlled [tax-funded] studies.  There seems to be a guilty-until-proven-effective-by-the-establishment rule in effect.  On top of all that, the entire segment has somewhat of a cynical tone to it.  Apparently they didn't talk to these folks, or these fine specimens, or those who penned most of the reviews here.

That said, adhering to the paleo way of eating can be a real challenge- especially if your significant other isn't on board, and your pantry is well-stocked with high-GI temptation.  My wife is a happy (and fit) carb-o-holic, who asked me 10 minutes ago whether I would partake if she prepped a large bowl of popcorn.  I stood strong this time around, but it wasn't easy.

A lot of us, myself included, try to practically align ourselves with Paleo principals, but tend to fudge on things like grass-fed ($$$) meat and an abundance of organic veggies.  We may even buckle once in a blue moon to the beckoning of spaghetti, lasagna, or free donuts.  We refuse to be socially awkward when our hosts bring out a gi-normous carrot cake with inch-deep frosting.  I think that's healthy. . . . to a point.

The season of eating is upon us- it begins with surplus Halloween candy abandoned in the breakroom at work.  Soon there will be Thanksgiving potlucks, Christmas parties, New Year's Celebrations, egg nog, and hot chocolate.  Personally, when I give an inch and pick up a tiny box of Milk Duds it becomes really tough not to take a mile.  Maybe our next topic to explore will be tactics for fighting the urge and avoiding the bulge this season.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Paleo on Reddit and Pizza Crust

Overwhelmed by what people I hardly knew in high school ate for breakfast, and pelted by pictures of their kids, I took a hiatus from Facebook a few years back.  Then a friend showed me how to "hide" each poster-child I wasn't interested in.  That led to another enjoyable season of electro-social networking. . . but then came Facebook's latest updates.  There now seems to be some kind of big brother software running in the background that thinks it knows what I want to see more than I do- it's a little too 1984 for my taste.

Lately I've taken a liking to Reddit.  There I can share, read, and discuss interesting and entertaining things while avoiding invitations to Farmville and Mafia Wars.  Inside Reddit you can subscribe to "sub-reddits" that have their own moderators and sub-sets of guidelines for posting and commenting.  There seems to be a sub-reddit for every topic under the sun, including Paleo.

On the hunt for a paleo-friendly pizza crust, I posted the question to Reddit. . . and yes, I got gently flamed for asking. . . . apparently I should have searched first (I'm new to this, people!)  Anyway,  here are a couple of the responses that look promising:

Cauliflower-based

Almond meal based

This one is beautiful (scroll down). . . but I've never seen a potato shredding gadget like that.

Sausage Based

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Paleo Restaurants Opening

In Germany- hopefully this catches on!  Check it out here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Paleo Pumpkin Waffles



I've tried my hand at gluten-free pancakes several times, and they turned out more like coconut-almond croquettes.  But I've finally figure out my folly!  I was overdoing it on the home-ground almond meal and making the batter too thick.  I slightly modified a recipe found on one of my new favorite blogs ( Eat The Cookie ) and made  some amazing paleo-pumpkin waffles.  Cooking them in the waffle iron instead of trying to flip brittle pancakes one-at-a-time in my cast iron skillet was unspeakably easier-  I'll be doing this more often now.

Here's the recipe-

Ingredients:


2 tbsp coconut flour
(I put shredded coconut in the blender until it was reduced to a powder)

4-6 tbsp almond meal
A generous dollop of cinnamon
A dash of cloves
A touch of nutmeg  (and ginger if you want, or pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

3 eggs
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp vanilla ext
2 heaping tbsp canned pumpkin


Instructions:

Stir all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl, dump in the wet ones, and stir it all over again.  Add a little more coconut or almond meal if you went overboard with the pumpkin to get to to the right consistency.  Spray down your waffle iron and cook for about 4 minutes or until the waffles are a nice light brown.  Take care removing them- I had no sticking problems, but they are softer than your average waffle and easier to mangle.

This recipe made three Belgian waffles for me, that could easily vary depending on the size of your iron.

5 Reasons to Eat the Paleo Way

So this week the Labcoats are trying to figure out if our eyeballs point toward nutrition labels as often as we assume they do.  But how important is label reading if you're approaching food the paleo way?  Not very.  The healthiest way to grocery shop is to buy only foods that are ingredients, rather than boxed concoctions of unpronounceable additives and preservatives.  But eating Paleo isn't just for minimalists- here 5 other ways that this approach to nutrition can better your life:




Say goodbye to that bloated feeling

We've all experienced that "I feel like I swallowed a truck" feeling that comes after revisiting the buffet line one too many times.  Make your choices based on Paleo Principles and you'll reach a satiated "full" without feeling like the Goodyear blimp.  One of the most pleasant surprises for me was how much of my past sufferings had been slyly baked into rolls, biscuits, and that diabolically gut-wrenching bread pudding.



Adios, compulsive calorie counting

It's unnecessary.  By avoiding sugar and grains, just how many foods are left with the caloric density sufficient to make one obese?  Other than fruit, potatoes are probably the starchiest whole food around. This guy ate nothing but spuds (around 20 per day) for two months and lost weight.  Unprocessed whole foods, with the exception of grains are often packed with so much more than calories-  healthy fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.


LGN

That is, Look Good Naked.  Need proof? Don't worry, it's fully clothed proof-  check out the transformations of Dave, Graham, Lin.  Now temper your dream with the fact that nothing but Photoshop will give your physique an instant airbrushing- it takes self-discipline and dedication.  Finally, read this. . . now you better balanced and good to go.


Stop pooping like a Play Dough Fun-Factory

Well. . . . it might be a little green if you're a spinach lover, but you weren't born to pump sludge.  What we're all looking for here is a good fit and a clean break on a regular basis.  If you leave atrocious skid marks in the throne's recess at every sitting, gluten in grains could be causing your IBS.  Join a lively discussion on Paleo poo here.




It's not as expensive as you think

Cost is one of the most common whines regarding the grass-fed meat and grain-less whole-foods approach to eating.  I won't bore you with the usual schpeel over how it will save you medical costs in the long run.  We're talking about practicality in the here and now-  check out the RV caveman who lives happily on $11K a year.  Gabi Moskowitz may be rough around the edges, but she shows you how it's done at BrokeAssGourmet.com.  Rob Wolf also shares his take on how to shop

 


Now you're practically excuse-less!  If you haven't been following along, catch up on the Chronicles of Dietopia and stay tuned for some theorizing over why Paleo, and certain other culinary ideologies work in regard to weight loss and overall health, and so many others don't.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Your Tax Dollars Pay For . . . . (#111024)

1) The persecution of grannies given a spec of moon-dust by an Astronaut

2) Access to Beastiality 101 for high school students (New York)

3) More red ink and bad credit

  

But take a deep breath. . . here's a point well-stated to temper any partisan outraged sparked by sensationalism and conflicting ideologies:





Let us continue. . . .

4) An IV in the jugular of companies that should have gone under for lack of quality and good management-  the American icons wouldn't have been forgotten,  that's why we have museums.

5) Plenty of artificially inflated high paying jobs (if you have the connections)

6) A $400,000 per year salary for the president. . . What did you say, Ron Paul?



Here's a more precise visualization of the big picture if you're curious- despite what we perceive as waste, we have a lot of services to be thankful for!

More from the bright side. . . . this is one of the most upbeat articles I've seen in ages- coming from the UK, nonetheless!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Going Paleo- Eat Like a Caveman

It's hard to believe anything we read these days.  The CDC says 68% of Americans over 20 are overweight or obese, but at the same time 1 in 8 Americans are hungry.  One second the talking heads on the evening news are reporting on the glorious crusade to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity. . . . by the way, America is starving.

It's easy to read what we want to believe on the internet, but the facts are clear as mud with so many studies funded by corporations trying to prove a point.  Skepticism is a useful tool to apply to anything we read online.  That's why I wasn't sold at first glance when I first read up on the Paleo approach to eating in a Crossfit forum.

Get the shirt here: Tshirtwatch.com

It sounded interesting, so I dug a little deeper.  After running across Mark's Daily Apple and the success stories there, it seemed definitely worth a test run.  Check it out for yourself and you'll see that there are more benefits than just weight loss.

The basic theory is this:  people were hunter-gatherers before they were baker-farmers, and our systems are better equipped to handle the former system.  Grains are essentially evil, containing few nutrients and lots of little nasties like lectin, gluten, and phytates- anti-nutrients that inhibit the body's ability to absorb the good stuff from the otherwise healthy food consumed.  Sugars and trans-fats are also off-limits.  If you'd like to know why, just do a search on Mark's website- he likes to pick studies apart, and there's lots of research backing him up.

The essential Paleo regimen consists of meat, eggs, nuts, fruit, and vegetables.  The greatest controversy amongst the Paleo bloggers seems to be over beans and dairy.  Considering the bloating and gas that often results from eating legumes, it would make sense that there's something in there that the human system doesn't appreciate.  As for dairy products, the industry is a marketing powerhouse, but there's a lot of lesser known truth to suggest that sticking to fermented dairy (think: yogurt, cottage cheese, buttermilk) and avoiding the rest is the healthiest approach.

Other resources that can help answer questions would include some interesting published research here, PaleoHacks.com, Robb Wolf's Revolutionary Solutions to Modern Life, and Whole9.

For some hindsight, check out previous articles in the Chronicles of Dietoptia at OneFaceInTheCrowd.com .  In the next installment I'll share what it's like to eat paleo- the struggles and the rewards.  In the meantime, use the resources listed to read up on the paleo way and tell me what you think.

Article first published as Going Paleo: Eat Like a Caveman on Technorati.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why a personal trainer is making himself obese… on purpose

Read this guy's interview! What he's doing isn't very smart, but he talks about how he's becoming addicted to the high GI foods he's eating to intentionally inflate his person. A great illustration of yesterday's post:

Why a personal trainer is making himself obese… on purpose

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Root of Our Cravings and What Not to Eat


For most hungry people, a thick slice of carrot cake is going to be more tempting than a broccoli crown.  That's one reason healthy programs like this one are seeing mixed results.  I'm completely supportive of the program.  We all need access to healthy food before we can eat it.  Education comes next- how to prepare it and why whole foods are healthier than Spaghetti-O's and Kool-Aid.

The kicker lies in the fact that even if we live next door to a Whole Foods Market, our bodies' cravings are for the most easy-access calories possible.  This article by the Detroit Free Press highlights the fact that no matter how informed we are, we often buckle to our cravings rather than making the healthiest choice.  It's not Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, or Ronald McDonald that cause childhood obesity.  Since when did 7-year-olds dictate the grocery shopping?


Why, for most of us, is it so much easier to resist an apple than an éclair?  Science has determined that food addiction is very  similar to the addiction factor of illegal drugs and that's hard-wired into our brains.  Our systems were designed to love easy-access calorie sources.  That survival instinct made plenty of sense before supermarkets came along.  The human condition in a modern world of sedentary desk jobs, televisions, and an abundance of cheap foods designed to appeal to our cravings make living healthily a formidable challenge.

So far in The Chronicals of Dietopia, we've covered my sordid history with food, the Abs and Warrior diets, Vegetarian, The Zone, Fruit Fasting, and Rice Fasting.  I'm working toward my most recent revelation and current nutritional slant,  but before I share that (and point out some really interesting correlations between dietary philosophies that seem diametrically opposed at first glance) let's look at what not to try.

The companies manufacturing processed foods make billions on cheap junk food that helps keep us fat; they make billions more on expensive chemical-based 'foods' that have little to no caloric or nutritional value.

Unlike the junk-food industry, calorie-free foods hardly sell themselves on taste.  My buds have always detected the difference between a calorie-free candy bar and a plain old Snickers.  A diet soft drink can't pass as high-fructose delight.  It's pre-wrapped convenience and delicious looking pictures coupled with the promise of zero calories, or a suggestive brand-name like 'Slim-Fast' that sell cardboard candy bars.  Rippling Photoshopped physiques of models on billboards, websites, and TV commercial help inspire false hope in those carefully crafted sawdust and aspartame composites.

Trust me:  you will probably go broke before you go lean (for life, anyway) on a candy or pre-fabbed shake diet.  Just look at the label on a can of Slim-Fast:



Compare that to a packet of Carnation Instant-Breakfast:

Slim-Fast doesn't look any more slenderizing to me.  Fathead has a good take on Slim-Fast ingredients here, so I won't even go there.

A pre-measured meal-in-a-can might help with portion control if you can resist snacking when the high GI contents have your stomach growling within a couple of hours . . . but that's what these are for, right?  All the hollow calories will do nothing to break a sugar addiction or bolster your system against diabetes.

Stay away from other junk foods cleverly disguised as healthy via pre-measured portions- like 100-calorie packs.  That's just the same crap in smaller sack with a higher price.  There's nothing magically healthy about ingesting empty calories 100 at a time.

Whether you are interested in losing weight, or just maintaining your health, I would suggest focusing on your relationship with food- real food.  As creatures of habit, living in a world with so many distractions, eating often becomes robotic, habitual, and mindless.

I'm not discounting the social aspect of food- it's one of the few things left in this networking world that still brings people together.  But food is fuel.  We should re-think spending money on things to eat solely for indulgent calorie-free taste and texture.  It's really a ripoff- like paying extra for gasoline that sends the gage needle to "F," then pours out the tail pipe as you drive away.

When time to eat, turn off the TV and sit at the dinner table.  Think about what you're about to consume.  Remember the bloated I-just-swallowed-a-horse feeling that comes after overdoing it- you know what I'm talking about.  Ask yourself if you want to look like this guy.   Now pace yourself and enjoy each bite.  Remember to breathe,  it's not going to run away if you don't down it in 3 minutes. Slower eating makes a difference.

We've covered what not to try, and proper form.  Soon we'll get to the heart of the matter, going in-depth regarding the best things to fill that plate with!  In the meantime, check out the shorts at One Face.  How to loosen up after sitting all day, and more.


Article first published as The Root of Our Cravings and What Not to Eat on Technorati.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How to Undo Years of Sitting

Let's face it, most Americans aren't chopping wood or picking peas for hours on end these days.  If you're one of the many fighting to stay fit on 15-45 minute workouts after spending 8 hours or more in a sitting position almost every weekday, this particular stretch is for you. 

Holding the position for a few minutes at a time isn't remotely comfortable, but it's worth it.  Your hips will feel like they were let out of a vise, at least mine did.  Check out the video in the above link.

This was part of a post on a really informative blog called Mobility WOD (Workout Of the Day) by Kelly Starrett, DPT.  Check out some of the other uniquely limbering stretches and exercises on his site- he's got something new almost every day, and he's just plain fun to listen to.

Perry Vs. Cain- 2012

There's something about Rick Perry that makes me uneasy- even as a conservative, a Christian, and a Texan for all but the last 3 years of my life.  Even amongst those of us who don't buy into the theory of man-made global warming, the thought of a cleaner planet, sustainable power, and less urban smog seems more responsible than continuing to suck Tehrani Tea.  When Perry says his job solution is 'drill, baby, drill!' in light of the BP disaster, he's not winning any votes-  even if God told him to run.

I don't remember Perry's piety being touted like this during his years as governor.  It's coming off as a political ploy, and that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.  As a fellow believer, I don't want to add fuel to his fire of persecution.  But why wait until now to hold these highly publicized political prayer rallies?  I think we all know.

But God allegedly told Herman Cain to run, as well!  And He (God) very well could have told them both to do it so that Ron Paul would win the election.

I'm not sold on him yet, but if Cain has anything going for him it's humility, simplicity, and grit.  He knows what he knows, and he admits it when he doesn't.  I like to think that a president's success depends less upon his own self-confidence and intellect than upon his ability to assemble and listen to a cabinet of specialists more knowledgeable than himself.  



The former Godfather's Pizza CEO is more American than he is Politician;  that's why I like him.  I think the USA is ready for a less narcissistic, simpler kind of leader-  anything but another career politician.  Cain's 9-9-9 plan is about as simple as you can get.  Even if it would raise taxes for some people in states that already have their own sales tax, it's something that we citizens can understand.  It's hard to find a loophole in something that basic-  you know what you owe.  The more you make and spend, the more you pay.

America is sick of complicated regulations that can't even be explained by the pundits who birthed them.  Health care, insurance, taxes, and countless other financial regulations should be simplified to the point that we don't need attorneys to interpret them, and can't pay attorneys to seek out loopholes that give anyone an unfair advantage.

Now that Cain is ahead in the polls, we'll get to watch the media try to reduce him from Godfather to delivery boy in the minds of the masses. . . . if they can figure out how to do that in our day and age without being dealt the race card.  Being a conservative African American for whom the American Dream became a reality gives Cain an advantage.  Running against Obama, he would have the liberty to push certain buttons that no PC white candidate would dare touch.


If anything stands in Hermain Cain's way, it's the American voting mentality.  Come election day, we seem to choke on fear and shortchange our ideals.  Despite all our cheering for the underdog, we tend to follow the rest of the sheep off the proverbial cliff in voting for who we perceive to have the best chance of winning.  It works like a run on a bank or a stock market sell-off.  If everyone would base our vote on who we want in office, rather than who has raked in the most money, we might end up with a real winner in the White House.  


Cain isn't being flooded with donations, and that's a positive in my book.  I'm probably not the only citizen repulsed by a political system that amounts to legal bribery.  Permitting corporations to donate money to campaigns and put politicians in their pockets before they are even elected is tragic.  I hope more individuals will begin supporting candidates who get the least amount of money from corporations and would enter the Oval Office with the fewest unspoken obligations. 

Article first published as Perry versus Cain 2012 on Technorati.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vegetarian, The Zone, Fruitopia, and the Rice Fast

It's been a crazy week of flip flopping among the pundits in Washington regarding food.  We have the first lady trying to set a world record to raise awareness for childhood obesity,  and just days later the government goes soft, refusing to castrate Tony the Tiger.



Ms. Obama seems all about health on camera, but Paula Deen ratted her out.  She apparently got her gnosh on during the commercials.  Makes you wonder what the White House chef is serving up these days.

I guess it's one step at a time.  If the history of my own relationship with food proves anything, it's that fitness is a journey rather than a destination.  Exploring my curiosities has made it a roller coaster of an adventure, from mending my unhealthy relationship with food in my teens, to the trials of The Abs and The Warrior diets.

I didn't give vegetarianism more than a passive pondering until Jenn and I were planning to celebrate our 1st anniversary by exploring  Portland, OR  on foot.  She's never been a vegan purist, but lived largely on produce by default until I came along.  I don't remember whose idea it was, but vegetarianism was an eating -ism I'd never tried, and that alone made me willing.  The fact that my wife was eager to participate made it that much more enticing, since my evolving menu had been known to induce rolling eyes and exasperation on her part.

We decided ahead of time to go at least a month without meat after our trip, seeing it as a way to detox from all of the restaurant food eaten during our tasty tour of Portland.  It could possibly speed up our financial recovery, too . . . I mean, spinach is cheaper than steak, right?

On one of our first nights in the trendy city, we went to a Living Room Theater and watched the documentary Food Inc.  It points out a lot of ominous disease-breeding/animal-abusing/migrant worker oppressing/poison-spreading aspects of our nation's food system.  The rhetoric was good motivation for someone already planning to shun meat for a time- so much, in fact, that I got started then and there.

Portland is a very liberal, organic, Petavegan-friendly kind of city.  Almost all of the food joints we went to had meatless lasagna, veggie burgers, tofu tips, and other specially designed 'plates' to appease the herbivores-  even Deschutes and Rock Bottom, a couple of the coolest little microbreweries on the planet.

I soon found myself ordering meat-free meals, and they were delicious!  The early start was enjoyable, and I continued to handle our month of meatlessness well after returning home.  Dagwood salads with lettuce, tomatoes, almonds, carrots, spinach, feta cheese, jalapeños, sprouts, and more helped see me through.

The leafy-greens and colorful salad aspect of vegetarian life was most healthy,  but there was a darker side.  I think any man my size would asphyxiate if he tried to get enough calories from leaves alone. The addictive and calorie-dense bread, cracker, cookie, rice, and cake side of things still qualifies as vegetarian.  I could feel myself getting softer as muscles seemingly atrophied for lack of protein.  I was more hungry more often, and the starchy foods ranking high on the glycemic index were being stashed at my waistline.  I packing on pounds like Kobayashi, but felt myself growing weaker and softer.  After over-training finally caught up with me and I had to stop running, my body felt even more inclined to store the starches.

'But what about beans?' you might scream- that seems to be many a vegetarian's answer to lack of protein.  The truth is, beans have considerably more starch than they do protein.  To get enough protein from legumes and tofu, you have to overdose on calories which, unless you have the metabolism of a hummingbird, usually results in weight gain.  Not to mention the dutch oven effect.  A married man's toe-steaming methane emissions under the covers are hardly appreciated.

Atkins was all the rage back then.  There was a lo-carb version of everything in groceryland.  Despite that fact, I never bought into the idea that going carnivorous to such a degree could possibly be sustainable or healthy in the long-term.  I was more than ready for meat again, practically drooling at the thought of a ribeye, but wanted something more balanced than toxic ketosis.  About to get back into weightlifting, I was on the hunt for a balanced, scientifically sound scheme that would optimize energy for exercise and protein for muscle development.  

After another round of research I entered The Zone.  It's a very interesting book, with sensible theory promoting a strictly measured, but wisely balanced diet.  I also picked up Stuart McRobert's reference manual on bodybuilding.  Together, my new set of references made for a few months of enjoyable progress.  The carefully measured protein to carb ratios kept me in The Zone, while I meticulously recorded weight, reps, and sets in a raw circuit of fundamental compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, and bench press.

I felt pretty good overall, mentally and physically.  As I got stronger, chronic aches like my rotator cuff and the periformis/sciatica that my running had incurred seemed to disappear.  I could eat just about anything, which was liberating to a point, but portions were tightly controlled.

I put on around 15 pounds of muscle, but it never seemed to poke through the wrapping paper quite like Rambo's.  I felt stronger but slower, my walk became a lumber.  As a beefcake, I missed feeling light, lean, and quick on my feet.  The constant label-reading and tedious fat, carb, and protein gram-counting became tedious, despite the pre-calculated recipes I'd developed that helped streamline snack time.  I couldn't try anything new without another number-crunching session.

One evening I pushed the limits with a little too much weight on the squat, resulting in bad form, and my back gave me trouble for weeks.  Just when I thought it was better, the slightest twist would bring all of the pain rushing back for days.  I needed an extended break, and took it during the busyness of moving from the Little Rock area to upstate New York.

The physical transplant uprooted my routine completely.  I was without a gym, my fully stocked fridge, and even my wife (for a couple of weeks.)  Without the right combination of proximity and price, I couldn't find a gym worth joining.  Over the next few months my hard-earned Arkansas muscle began to soften and sag.

For the first time since I was 13 years old I found myself over 200lbs and more interested in shedding excess weight than in general fitness.  That's when I undertook a week long fruit-fast.  It worked nicely in terms of slimming down, and provided plenty of vitamins and fiber, but seemed too sugary to do long-term without rotting your teeth out.

For my second phase of slenderization, I switched to a rice fast.  Simple and effective, I was soon back down to my fighting weight, floating around 180lbs.  I maintained that weight for some time as a mostly-whole-foods omnivore, intentionally conscious of portion sizes, but avoiding the hassle of calorie counting.  It was probably a year later that I came across a revelation that would turn everything I thought I knew about healthy eating upside down and expose the 'con' in conventional wisdom.

Coming soon. . .



Article first published as Vegetarian, The Zone, Fruitopia, and the Rice Fast on Technorati.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

CW Nutrition: The Abs Diet & The Warrior Diet

(Note: See Speaking of Food for an introduction)

About six years ago my first taste of a mainstream diet plan began at a point in health where I wasn't necessarily looking to lose weight, but would consider anything that might healthily help me look a little more like Michaelangelo's statue of David.  After some research (aka Googling for on-line reviews) I settled for the Abs Diet.

Yes, it makes the stereotypical, grandiose promises of X pounds in Y days, but the book is a healthy read.  It's principals are not as shallow as the glossy title and advertising suggest, even if the macho lingo seems directed toward a pack of jocks in heat.  The text provides a sensible, well-rounded diet and exercise plan that one could easily live by indefinitely.  But you have to buy into conventional (food pyramid) wisdom.

When it comes to the USDA's food pyramid, the main reference point for most food-related CW, a "balanced" diet is more politically correct than it is healthy.  The United States Department of Agriculture is lobbied by all of the livestock and plant farmers under its umbrella and still gets to tell us what we should eat.  Smells like a conflict of interest if there ever was one.

An overwhelming majority of conventional nutritional guidelines are based on studies funded by the very industries that produce the foods.  "Got Milk?" for instance. . . or this interesting story about how pomegranates became a superfood.

In our consumer-driven society all a producer has to do is dig until they find a scientist who can find a positive aspect to their product. Then they can relentlessly promote and advertise that slice of optimism until it becomes CW, or maybe even a pop culture craze (like Acai berries now in everything from pills to tea.)  Clever marketing can build a castle of fortune on a grain of truth.

There was a time when even cigarettes were healthy.  Interestingly enough, the government is suing Pom Wonderful for misleading the common man.  Sorghum bran may be more scientifically justifiable as rich in antioxidants, but it isn't sugary, wouldn't sell in a sensuously lumpy bottle, and just doesn't sound as chic.

Since commercial-based CW is hardly reliable, and I've been full of questions ever since I picked up my first Curious George book, I eventually became interested in less conventional approaches to nutrition.  I don't remember how I first got wind of it, but I decided to test The Warrior Diet.

The book was actually one of the most dubious I've read, with very little in the way of scientific or common-sensical merit.  The fact that the author (Ori Hofmekler) had previously worked for distasteful publications and had a sinister monkey look on his face in all of the book's exercise illustrations didn't help his credibility with me.  He wasn't my kind of role model in any dimension.

His theory goes something like this-  cave men and Spartans must have never eaten breakfast since Captain Crunch and Eggos weren't around back then. They would travel long distances by foot on a daily basis, looking to spear their dinners.  By the evening they'd kill a deer or a turkey, then cook it over an open fire and totally pig out before slipping into restful sleep. . . . so that must be how we are meant to eat.

Basically,  fast all day then make up for it during a 4-hour no-holds-barred feeding window every evening.  There were a few guidelines for stuffing your face:  lead off with leafy greens to make a bed for all the meat you can manage, and only then top off your stomach with sweets (if you must.)

These are the guidelines quoted from the Warrior Diet website:

1. Eat One Main Meal at Night
There is evidence that humans are nocturnal eaters, inherently programmed for undereating and toiling during the day, followed by overeating and relaxing at night.
2. Go Low on the Food Chain
Researchers believe that the human genome is programmed for a late Paleolithic world. As hunter/gatherers we're better adapted to pre-agricultural food– i.e. chemical-free fruit, vegetables, roots, sprouted legumes, nuts, seeds, fertile eggs, marine food (wild catch), and dairy from grass fed animals.
3. Exercise While Undereating
It has been established that we are inherently carrying survival mechanisms that benefit us when triggered by physical or nutritional stress such as exercise or undereating. Combining exercise with undereating will amplify the beneficial mechanisms of both – increasing our ability to utilize energy, improve strength and resist fatigue.
The thought of giving my willpower a daily 20-hour workout while looking forward to indulging carelessly for 4 hours, all to look like a character from The 300 sounded appealing, so I gave it a try.

I handled the fasting part handily, but ingesting enough calories within 4 hours to make up for it proved a challenge.  You know that cranial haze that you get after a big thanksgiving dinner?  I was dealing with it nightly.  That kind of mental fog is the last thing a small-time poet with a full-time job needs during his off-hours.  Working out after a 20 hour fast wasn't working for me either.  My calves started cramping at night. . . . like they were trying to eat themselves.
  
Without the intermittent insulin surges that come with the bad advice to eat 5-6 mini-meals a day and "stoke the metabolic fire" (per the CW  in the Abs Diet) I had exceptional mental clarity during the day, but felt physically sluggish.  Without a whole lot of excess weight to lose, I shed a few pounds and then plateaued.

I don't think Ori totally missed the mark.  Going "low on the food chain" is good advice.  There's solid research that I'll get to later suggesting that exercise on an empty stomach can be very effective, and that fasting is a healthy practice.  It's just that what we eat is much more important than his book suggests, and trying to stuff an entire day's calories into 4 hours is mind numbing.  It gets old fast. . . . unless you enjoy feeling like a zombie that just swallowed a cinder block.  Vampires and werewolves are more in-vogue anyway.

Needless to say, I didn't last long as a Warrior, but moved on to a plan grounded in more solid research-  coming soon. . .  


Monday, October 3, 2011

Sunday Blurb

God says "seek My face."  In modern terms I see that as "look Me in the eye."  I think He's saying, "Don't talk to me over your shoulder while focused on the things of this world.  I want your full attention, your listening ear, your open heart.  I want more than the shallow little prayers you throw over your shoulder when you're in a pinch.  I want more than your Christmas list.  I know what you want better than you do.  Listen to Me for a change. I want a relationship with you.  Stop engaging in anything that makes you squirm at the thought of sitting down face-to-face with Me."  Thanks to Rev. "The Bull" Earley for bringing it Sunday!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Speaking of Food. . . .



Food is vital to life, an art in itself, and a four letter word.  My personal relationship with food, through many ups and downs, has evolved from abusive to experimental over the past 30 years.  Read on if you dare, but consult your physician before trying anything blah blah yadda blah. . . .

I was a true string bean until second grade.  To choke down my home-grown vegetables was to earn a bowl of fruit and Jell-O soup.  I only thought about eating what was set before me, and refused some of that . . unless it flew toward my mouth making airplane noises-  playing Godzilla was irresistible.  It wasn't until after starting elementary school that I developed a less than healthy routine.

I would walk home from school every afternoon (nothing impressive, probably half a mile) and have an innocent little snack.  There wasn't much else to do in a town of 112 when most of its citizens are old enough to be your grandparents.  When the cookies and peanut butter were gone, I was bored again.  Time for another snack.  Somewhere between second and sixth grades I became unable to think straight without the chilly white fog from the refrigerator wafting across my cheeks.

I could get creative in the kitchen.  A pile of lunch meat on a plate with a thick slab of cheese in the middle would snap and crackle in the microwave as if applauding my gastrointestinal ingenuity.  Arby's had nothing on my cheese-melts.  Chips, more cookies, and I knew where the chocolate was hidden.

Mama would come home and fix dinner after resting her feet before hitting the kitchen.  The whole family usually sat down together for home-cooked meal around 8:00 or so. I would be anything but hungry after my indulgent snacking session, but I had to finish that meatloaf to justify ice cream.

Then one day I looked down and realized that I needed a bra worse than my little sister.  A chubby chest and chaffing hams scared the cherub into action.  I was 12 years old and spilling over my huskies at 220+ lbs. Something had to give.

Nothing displaces bad habits like good ones, but developing them can be an epic hurdle.  My turnaround began in the summer after seventh grade when I started riding my mountain bike out and back on a hilly 12-mile route every day.  After getting back to the house I would enjoy 4 graham crackers with peanut butter between the pairs, a tall glass of iced coffee, and an orange-  nothing more until dinner time.  Within two years I was down to 185lbs, not to mention considerably taller than I was at the height of my girth.

The lesson I'd learned in self-discipline was more valuable than going from a 40" to a 32" waist.  I managed to stay in reasonably good shape for the duration of my high school years, continuing my cycling in the summers. . . . then came college.

I have a theory regarding the legendary "freshman fifteen"- I believe it's more prevalent at colleges with cafeterias and all-you-can-eat meal plans.  The University of Texas at Tyler had only accepted juniors through graduates up until 1998.  I was part of the second freshman class starting there in 1999, and there was nothing for a freshman to do. . . or eat.  No cafeteria, no dorms-  just books and classrooms.  There was a small "Campus Cafe."  Recommending their biscuits and gravy was our only established hazing ritual.

The only form of student housing on campus was University Pines-   a students-only apartment complex located on campus, but not managed by the college.  I moved in with three guys I'd never met.   Two of them became really great friends, the other was a Dorito bandito.  Munching on stolen chips in his room, skipping classes to practice on his bass guitar-  he only lasted one semester.

We had good times at The Pines, but it didn't start out healthy.  My two friends and I would go to Wal-Mart together and shop for groceries, tossing what we wanted into the basket and then splitting the bill three ways.  That granted all of us the right to eat as we pleased from the spoils.  Our main staples for the first year were corny-dogs and Ramen noodles.  I was snarfing down two corny-dogs for lunch and three for dinner daily.  Burnout was inevitable.

By my junior year I had been working for University Pines as a Community Assistant in return for free rent and chump change.  I'd been compelled by my employer to leave my original roommates and move into a 2-bedroom apartment with another, more reserved, CA.  He ended up becoming one of my closest friends, but we didn't split the grocery bill, and he never cleaned the bathtub. . . . but I'm not bitter.

As a result of my new living arrangement, my foodstuffs became slightly more sophisticated.  I began cooking up Hamburger Helper and Zatarain's dirty rice mix fairly often, and making my own dagwood-style sandwiches on bread as exotic as pumpernickel, 7-grain, or Health Nut. (thank you, Mama, for weaning me from Wonderbread)

Graduation rolled around, and all of a sudden I was dumped into the real-world.  A single guy in his early 20's, far from the bustling social scene of the college campus, has a lot of quiet time on his hands to think about life, love, and his next meal.  I began to wonder why I continued to buy boxes full of pasta and chemically enriched powders-  surely I could save money and avoid eating things I couldn't pronounce just by purchasing the ingredients separately!

Soon I was cooking up one-dish-wonders from scratch, usually starting with a base of brown rice, black olives, mushrooms, a can or two of Rotel, and any combination of chicken, beef, ground turkey, jalapeño peppers, and beans.  One kitchen session could produce dinner for a week when I alternated between monster salads and my southern goulash.

With few obligations aside from work and church, I began to focus on fitness in my free time- partly to pad my loneliness and partly with the misguided notion that my envisioned ripples would help put an end to it.  As one who functions best with a set of rules to follow, I began researching.

I'd often scoffed at fad diets, having friends known to try three different programs (Weight-Watchers, Slim-Fast, Atkins) within the same 6-month period with little to show for their effort.  I diagnosed it as Chronic Dietitus, and still believe it to be an American epidemic.  I could rant on about how there's a diet for every taste out there.  At a garage sale I once found a book called The Peanut Butter Diet.  I almost bought it for laughs, but refrained out of fear I would actually try it.

God made me a very curious creature.  There are so many schools of thought out there on the most ethical, and healthiest ways to eat.  After watching documentaries like King Corn, Food Inc., Supersize Me, FatHead (recommended), The Botany of Desire, Julie &; Julia, and Forks Over Knives; reading books like The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Zone; and some really interesting blogs that I'll get to later, I have put a number of ideas to the test.

I think one reason I enjoy trying different nutritional disciplines is because clearly defined guidelines regarding when or what I consume are a challenging exercise in self-discipline and inspire me to become more creative with my limited options.  I've come up with my own challenges- like abstaining from French fries or carbonated soft drinks for a year, and subjected myself to various comprehensive approaches to food.

Going from vegetarian to bacon buff at the drop of a hat was a lot easier before I had a wonderful wife cooking for me.  I never ask her to be a mouse for my trials, but my own rotating restrictions frustrate the cook none-the-less.

The good news (for both of us) is that after researching and approaching nutrition from so many different angles, I'm beginning to get a firm understanding of the common denominators that the most healthy and effective exercise and nutrition programs share- sometimes even when the camps seem diametrically opposed.  In my next post I'll share my take on different schools of thought, what I've tried, and what I've gleaned from first-hand experiences ranging from mainstream to quite exotic!


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