Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Body-for-Life v. Low-Carb: Pictures

Ten years ago today (yes, the day before Thanksgiving), I started Body-for-Life. BFL involves eating several small meals per day that balance protein and carbohydrate and minimizes dietary fat. Daily workouts involve intense weightlifting or cardio. One day a week is a free day, where you don't exercise and eat whatever you want. Initially, I lost weight, gained muscle and felt great. Eventually, though, I gained back the weight and developed cavities and upper GI problems. The cardio workouts left me exhausted. Free day foods found their way into the other days. I developed GERD, an esophageal ulcer, chronic sinus congestion and a constantly upset stomach. I've written about the logical fallacies of BFL here, here and here. If only I'd read the book with a more critical eye back then, I 'd have saved myself most, if not all, of the misery.

The endpapers of the Body-for-Life book are before and after photos taken 12 weeks apart. Let me share some photos here.

Five years into BFL. Yes, I'd gained weight.
Eight months into a wheat-free, low-carb diet with weekly exercise. Photo taken two years after the above photo.

Two and a half years into a wheat-free, low-carb diet. I hadn't exercised in months due to injuries from an accident.

For those who end up here looking for info on BFL, here's the executive summary: low-carb beats BFL in every way, shape and form. I don't have any problem with free day foods creeping into other days because there isn't any free day: I limit carbs every day, and don't eat certain foods, ever. It's actually easier to be good all the time. My last dental appointment showed no tooth decay, despite my limited ability to clean my teeth for a few months because of an accident.

BTW, high-fat meals are a great antidote for pain: not only do I have no post-workout pain, but I never opened my Vicoden after my accident (I fractured my arm and hit my face on the pavement in a bike accident) or surgery (a broken tooth was removed and an implant put in). By the end of my time on BFL, OTOH, my knees and left shoulder frequently hurt.

Want to try a low-carb Thanksgiving? Here's what I'm making: chicken pot pie with cheddar herb almond crust and crustless squash pie. If you're having a more traditional Thanksgiving, have more turkey (with mayonnaise if you like it), more non-starchy veg like olives, salad and green beans, coffee or tea (with cream if you like) but without sugar for dessert, and less of the potatoes, yams, rolls, stuffing, pie and alcohol. Do this, and you can probably leave the naps, weight gain and stomach pain for everyone who's on a free day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Stupor: It's Not the Turkey OR the Fat

An article on the Mental Floss magazine website blamed the stupor people usually feel after a Thanksgiving meal on (what else besides turkey?) the fat--229 grams of it in an "average Thanksgiving meal," according to the article.

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor: Fats — That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.
 My response:

Say what? First of all, even if you ate all the skin from half a turkey plus a whole stick of butter, that would be only 190 g of fat. (source: Thanksgiving is mostly a carbohydrate fest: potatoes, yams, desserts and most snack foods are mainly sugar and starch. Second, I'd like to see the evidence that a high-fat meal "reduces blood flow to the rest of the body" any more than a high-carb or high-protein meal. When I started a low-carb, high fat diet a few years ago, one of the first things I noticed was how much *less* sleep I needed, and I've heard many others say the same thing. I'll be enjoying a low-carb Thanksgiving without any calorie counting, weight gain or Tums.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Magic Jewelry Makes you Smarter and Bolder!

Peace, love, positive energy. "'s like a second skin. I don't leave the house without protection and guidance," goes a current radio ad.

The voice actress isn't talking about carrying a map and some condoms. Does the peace, love and positive energy bit mean, for instance, helping homeless youth, or raising awareness about foster care, or fighting city hall? No, all those things are hard. The annoying radio ad is about Alex and Ani jewelry: "positive energy products that adorn the body, enlighten the mind, and empower the spirit."

I love jewelry. What I don't love is the message that wearing jewelry will make you smarter, positive or more courageous. It's a no-effort solution, and like almost all no-effort solutions, it's bunkum. It's the twenty-first century, and yet a big business can be built on a bunch of BS.

Want to empower your spirit--for real? Even where magic really does exist, people (like Harry Potter) need courage and way to get it:

Harry Potter's Five Steps [to Courage]

(1) Prepare for the challenge.
(2) Surround yourself with support.
(3) Engage in positive self-talk.
(4) Focus on what's at stake.
(5) Take appropriate action.(1)

Want to enlighten your mind? Good--there's no substitute for knowledge. Knowing truth from falsehood is hard, but it helps to keep in mind that the burden of proof is on the one making the assertion, and that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Learn about logical fallacies, admit it when you're wrong, gather reliable information, do some N=1 tests on yourself, and probably, you can stop spinning your wheels. At the least, you can stop wasting your time on things that don't work.

As for positive energy, eat some meat or eggs from a pasture-raised animal. The energy is in the form of calories (they're units of energy), and an animal raised with care in its natural environment is a positive thing. It's as close to a no-effort solution as you can get.

1. Harry Potter's Five Steps to Courage by Tom Morris. Huffington Post, April 20, 2009.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Process This!

At lunch today a couple of coworkers mentioned how icky they found meat. What a nice topic of conversation! If we hadn't been at the table, I'd have mentioned that plants process poop.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Who Put Lead in my Weights?

A few weeks ago, I was wondering, smugly, how many people at the airport wheeling their bags along were paying for gym memberships. Everyone--to a person--had wheeled luggage except me: as long as my old suitcase holds out, I won't buy another one. And I wasn't willing to pay $40 to check my luggage cart. Three months after my accident, my fractured arm was well enough to carry a week's worth of clothes and toiletries, and so it was pressed into service. After all, I'd pushed, sawed and hammered my fence back into place and planted 15 or 20 plants a few weeks before without a problem.

With this in mind, I didn't think my first workout in three months would be too hard. And for my legs and abs (which weren't injured in my bike wreck in late July), it wasn't. At first, the upper body workout wasn't hard--I got through three and a half Slow Burn pushups without undue hardship. But the weights felt twice as heavy as they used to. Did a five-pound weight really used to feel like nothing? Did I really once consider getting some 30-pound free weights? Despite wielding a shovel and a suitcase, I lost muscle tone. I needed a gym membership, or a home workout.

Most readers probably know the physical benefits of strength training. Personally, I simply like being strong. I don't like asking others to do the heavy lifting. I do like having a body that can move something heavy out of the way and dance for hours without getting tired. Everyday activity isn't enough to get it in prime shape.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wheat Farmer's Dilemma

A coworker asked me today if I was familiar with a book called "Bread Belly" or somesuch. "Wheat Belly? Yes," I said, "I'm very familiar with it."

Her husband bought the book after a friend of his raved about it, having lost 65 pounds on Dr. Davis's wheat-free, low-carb way of eating. The friend is a wheat farmer.

"What's he going to do, knowing that wheat is so bad?"

"I suppose he'll be like a diabetic sugar farmer, who can't have sugar even though other people can have it, or he could grow corn or soybeans."

If the wheat-free wheat farmer continues his food education, he'll learn that growing any of these things isn't any great service to his countrymen. Will he do something better with his farm? Or will he be like cigarette executives who don't smoke or entertainers who don't let their kids listen to their work?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Taubes, Denver Dentist: Big Sugar Bought Influence

Sweetened tea is good for you? Handouts for dental patients that don't mention restricting sugar? Controlling diabetes by eating less fat? None of these recommendations from the Center for Disease Control, Prevention's National Diabetes Education Program and a health guru & author made any sense to Denver dentist Cristen Kearns Couzens. But instead of drinking the Kool-Aid, she researched how nonsense became policy.

After quitting her job to do her research full time, Couzens uncovered evidence documenting specious industry-sponsored studies and boards staffed with members friendly to (that is, paid by) the sugar industry. Last year, she contacted Gary Taubes at a lecture in Denver, and the two have written an article for Mother Jones magazine.

Need some humor? Check out vintage ads touting sugar as a weight loss tool.
Slideshow: "Enjoy an Ice Cream Cone Shortly before Lunch"

Articles in Morther Jones magazine:
Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies
How a Former Dentist Drilled the Sugar Industry
A Timeline of Sugar Spin
Document Drive: What's Inside the Sugar Industry's Filing Cabinets?