Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chocolate for Stoics

Have you seen those Dove chocolates with dreamy, self-indulgent phrases inside the wrapper? Or the Chocolove bars with poems in the wrapper? I have a similar idea: very dark chocolate pieces, a little bitter, with Stoic phrases in the wrapper.

  • Soldier on!
  • Hug someone--it could be the last time
  • Steel yourself
  • Have you insulted yourself today?
  • Quit buying useless crap
  • Tolerate someone detestable
  • Chin up!
  • Accept the inevitable
  • Make do and mend
  • Throw yourself into your work
  • Enjoy what you already have

Five percent of profits would go to Urban Peak, the only homeless youth shelter in Denver (population two million). Phrases benefit readers inundated with buy now, pay later, get more, indulge yourself messages of the mainstream media.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What Can I Eat on a Low Carb Diet? A Pictoral Guide

When someone considers going on a low carb diet, they tend to ask, "If I'm not eating bread, potatoes and cereal, what's left to eat?" It's shocking that starch and sugar makes up so much of a typical diet that people ask this.

Naughty foods are bread and potatoes and Kool-Aid. These are nice foods:

Left to right: bacon, baking cocoa, butter, oxtail, broth (note they've kindly provided a low-fat and low-sodium warning), chocolate (note the very high cacao, and therefore low-sugar, content), red wine (go easy on this), and diet soda (full disclosure: I'm a shareholder in the company that makes Hansen's).

Don't even think about trimming the fat--fat, not carbs, is your fuel on a low carb diet.

Some staples at my house:

Left to right: sardines, hamburger, beef liver, pork rinds, frozen vegetables, free-range eggs, Splenda, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Who says Atkins is an all-meat diet? I've read that low-carbers eat more vegetables than most people.

Back row, left to right: fennel, baby greens, almonds. Front row: bell pepper, sweet potato, garlic, avocado, ginger.

Not all white food is bad.

Left to right: homemade mayonnaise, white wine, salt, coconut oil, tea, pastured lard (not the hydrogenated stuff from the supermarket), full-fat coconut milk and mushrooms. The 1930s coffee maker on the right is still in use: no need to give up coffee on a low-carb diet.

A lot of this can be eaten straight out of the package, but cooking these good ingredients is dead easy, too. I usually broil the hamburger and cook chicken or oxtail in a pressure cooker with some broth and wine. I steam the vegetables in the microwave and add butter, or cut them up and dip them in mayonnaise (recipes are out there online--it only takes five minutes to make in a blender). I use the coconut milk to make ice cream (recipes here and here) and eggnog. Sometimes I make something more complicated, like pate, but this is my daily fare on a low carb way of eating.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Great Paleo/Low Carb Controversy


Longer version: Out of necessity, I have a foot in both worlds. I pretty much know how I need to eat; I come online to seek out others who eat this way for fellowship. I don't like to argue. I was born old, and now I'm a 43-year-old dowager with no need to agree or convince or get along with everyone.

If someone does well on starchy tubers and lean, dry, tough meat and daily workouts, that's great. (It worked for me for awhile, too.) If they think everybody should be on such a diet, time will take care of that. More likely, most young paleos will take a noncompliant spouse and the paleo diet will go out the window. A lot of them will be reconsidering low carb diets in ten years.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sweating Like a Horse

Horses sweat, people perspire. Miss Hayworth glows." -Orson Welles

Sign at a local cardio corral*:

Nobody ever drowned in sweat.

There's information posted in the windows about their classes, but I don't think they make any claims about weight loss. If that's the best they can come up with, I'll stay in bed while they have their 6 AM classes and avoid injuries.**

*Origin of Corral: Spanish, from Vulgar Latin *currale enclosure for vehicles, from Latin currus cart, from currere to run — more at car
First Known Use: 1582

**The conclusion of the article is priceless: "As physical activity continues to be promoted as part of a healthy lifestyle, [sports related] injuries are becoming an important public health concern for both children and adults."
Source: "Sports and recreation related injury episodes in the US population, 1997-99" by Conn JM, Annest JL, Gilchrist J. Injury Prevention, June 2003.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"An Ode to Steak"

Jeff Sun, a dancer with Shen Yun Performing Arts, was so moved by the meat culture in Argentina that he wrote a poem about it using chengyu (Chinese idioms), with an English translation provided.

To wit: "芳香四溢 (fāng xiāng sì yì) I drown in your fragrant balm." What salad could have inspired this? Or fueled performances like these?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Smart-alecky Health Quiz Answers

There's a silly newsletter full of conventional wisdom that arrives at my office. Since I'm not here to bust anyone's chops, I'll call it Personal Dreck Healthlines. The latest issue has a quiz called "How's Your Health?"
"Following is a list of some of the most important self-care measures for improving your health and well-being. Check the statements that apply to you--7 or 8 is good and 9 or 10 is excellent. [There are actually 14 statements to check off. Was 11-14 too much to hope for, or was the editor sleepy from missing her afternoon bagel?] Use the results to identify new health habits you hope to achieve in the coming months."
  • I stay within 10 to 15 pounds of my healthiest weight. Do I get extra credit for staying within one or two pounds?
  • I follow a schedule for preventive screening with my health care provider. Sorry, I just go when I actually need medical care, my health care provider's condo payments notwithstanding.
  • I accumulate 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. I was on that plan a few years ago. It made me fit, but not healthy.
  • I do 8 to 10 strength-building exercises 2 to 3 times a week. See above; I do one a week. I'm just as fit and I have more of a life now, too.
  • I eat a wide variety of fruits (at least 2 cups) and vegetables (at least 2-1/2 cups) daily. Gotta get those 300 grams of carbohydrate in every day--make some of those grams sugar in the form of fruit. Kidding aside, I do like vegetables, but 2-1/2 cups would, like fruit, would give me GI problems.
  • I limit red meat and other foods high in saturated fat to 2 servings a week. Yes, I usually have two servings of red meat per day. Er, wait--it says "per week." Haven't they seen cave paintings of aurochs or the stone tools our ancestors used to butcher meat? What do they think we lived on for two million years, skim milk and year-round fruit? Four ounces of the toughest, driest part of the animal we could whack off (but only on special occasions)?
  • I have at least one dental check per year. Yes.
  • I avoid alcohol or limit intake to 2 drinks a day (men) or 1 a day (women). Yes.
  • I (a) don't smoke or (b) have asked my provider for help quitting. Yes.
  • I manage work stress in healthy ways, such as regular exercise. Exercise is the answer for just about everything, isn't it. The best exercise for avoiding work stress is to put aside all the distractions you can and fly into your work. Piddling around only seems less stressful.
  • I have a generally positive attitude about life. Yes.
  • I relax and find solitude nearly every day. Yes.
  • I have a network of friends for mutual support and fun. Yes.
  • I get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day. Mostly.
That's nine out of fourteen for me, which is supposedly excellent, but they probably meant 13 or 14 is excellent and 11 or 12 is good. Nine is only 64%. It looks like I'm too lazy to run around a track, get up and go to the salad bar (or the regular bar) or lift a dumbbell very often. (Must be all that red meat.) But I'm not very stressed out about it and it hasn't caused any weight gain.
How different would a quiz look from an evolutionary or ancestral health point of view?
  1. I don't smoke.
  2. I avoid wheat.
  3. My diet is mostly meat/eggs and vegetables.
  4. I take vitamin D3 and other supplements as needed.
  5. I avoid overconsuming foods (e.g., dairy, sugar, starch, alcohol, etc.) that cause problems for me, even if the problems aren't immediate or acute.
  6. I get enough sleep to feel rested.
  7. My teeth and gums are healthy and feel good, and I clean them every day.
  8. I do strength training once or twice a week.
  9. I do my best to live in harmony with people around me.
  10. I have hobbies and friends I enjoy.
  11. I see a doctor for a persistent illness or serious injury.
  12. I get some sunshine, but avoid getting sunburned.
  13. I live a life in accordance with my personality and abilities.
  14. I use prescription drugs only if diet and lifestyle changes don't restore my health.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Posts that Could Change Your Life

What if one or two little tweaks could transform your life? Instead of spending years in therapy, hours a week on the treadmill, gagging down whole grains every day, or tearing your hair out over a positive test for an illness, it's possible that making a few little changes could change everything.

I've added a list of posts that could do this for a lot of people (see the list below my profile). Don't worry, there's nothing to buy. You might need to check out a library book and do some N=1 experiments on yourself. Overall, these should save you time and decrease your aggravation.

Cardio: A Waste of Valuable Dance Time. Actually, there's a school of thought that cardio is a waste of any kind of time (unless you enjoy it). Sure, you burn calories, but you move less later and get hungrier. Studies have shown that it's not effective for losing weight. I don't do cardio (I lift weights instead) and don't need to lose weight. That wasn't the case when I was on a higher-carb diet: I was working out hard six times a week (three cardio sessions and three weight lifting sessions) and I was gaining weight! (See photos here.) Just think about all the time you could be napping, reading or playing video games--I mean, helping science instead of pounding the treadmill. If you want to sweat, take a dance class at a night club. If you need some flow in your life (flow being "the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity, according to Wikipedia), this is one way to get it. It's even more fun than it looks.

Lousy Mood? It Could be the Food. It's counterintuitive, but your mind is really your brain, which is part of your body. Without the proper nutrients, it doesn't work properly. It might make you dumber; it definitely affects your mood. Ever notice how your coworkers are lethargic around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon? It's likely falling blood sugar from a high-carb lunch a few hours earlier. Ever feel depressed on a low-fat diet? It's not just you--even comedian Tom Naughton said it happened to him. It happens to me on anything but a high-fat, low carb diet.

Positive Test? Avoid a Nightmare by Using Math. Here's one that even regular readers might not know about. Suppose you're asymptomatic but have a positive test for an illness. What are the odds you actually have the illness? It actually depends on some statistics and a little arithmetic (don't worry, it's not as hard as it sounds). Check out Calculated Risks by Gerd Gigerenzer. If you've had a positive test, you may have reason for cautious optimism.

Why You Can't Cure a Sugar Habit with Starch. Here, chemistry meets common sense. Those lovely complex carbohydrates are made of sugar molecules, which is what your digestive system breaks them into. Health-conscious people want to avoid sugar. Yet so many of them eat complex carbohydrates. If you're spinning your wheels substituting starch for sugar, it isn't your fault.