This Site Has Moved

I moved the blog some time ago to Please join in the discussion over there!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I've Moved

Check out the new blog at See you there!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I'm Back

I'm back from Niagara and making some final changes to the blog. It may be down for a bit. I hope to have it back up today, but if not, stay with me. I'm converting to WordPress.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

25 of the World's Most Interesting Animals

I'm off to Niagara Falls for the weekend, so enjoy looking at these cute little devils for a few days. See you on Sunday. Same bat time, same bat channel, same bad jokes.

100 Foods to Improve Your Productivity

Here is a list of 100 Foods to Improve Productivity. All kinds of favorite foods make the list. Here are a few to whet your whistle:

Salmon: Not just a fish dish delicacy, a single serving of salmon is also full of healthy benefits. Low in calories but high in important omega 3 fatty acids and protein, salmon will keep your appetite at bay while you concentrate on your busy day. Salmon is known for keeping high-blood pressure in check – a benefit for the demanding currency trading lifestyle. Salmon also lowers your chances of sunburn, dry eyes, stroke, prostate cancer, and even minimizes feelings of hostility in young adults. Without the distractions of moody adolescents, you'll be able to get twice as much done!

Spinach: Make like Popeye and inhale that spinach. Full of practically every nutrient you could think of, spinach is the easiest way to take in all your vitamins at once. In addition to fighting cancer and building strong bones and muscles, spinach reduces stress and help keeps your brain young and focused.

Cauliflower: Like most other vegetables included on this list, cauliflower has an immense amount of Vitamin C and impressive detoxifying capabilities. Just don't pour on the ranch dressing, or you'll also be getting a lot of fat and calories. Visit for new twists on the vegetable.

Onions: Adding onions to any dish will add taste while lowering your blood sugar. Onions are also good for the overall health of your stomach, settling that queasy tummy during a hangover.

Ok, so you'll really notice one thing reading through the list: most of the foods that made the list are exquisitely healthful and you probably don't need to be told that they're good for you. Lots of fruits, vegetables, and delicious protein. Of course there are a few foods on the list that make me say "Huh?," such as pound cake (#55), tofu (#73..."a healthier alternative to meat"? Who're they kidding?), and vanilla soy milk (#78). And there are a few tweeners that I won't get myself all twisted over, but these shouldn't be a part of daily intake: orange juice (#36), brown rice (#52), bran cereal (#49), and whole wheat pasta (#79) to name a few. Of course, no self-respecting health list would be complete without a few grains huh?

All in all though, this is a solid list of foods to include in your daily eating regimen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Is Juice Good For You?

There's an interesting discussion about fruit juice over at Wired Berries that I've been participating in. Stop in and check it out.

I stand by my contention that fruit juice should not constitute a regular part of a healthful diet. The sugar content is too high and, being a liquid, it is quickly turned into glucose for delivery in the blood. As we all know, high glucose equals high insulin and since insulin is a storage hormone, the body won't release fat while insulin is jacked up. You'll notice in the comments that I also point out that orange and apple juice are, ounce for ounce, higher in calories than a soda. Fruit is very healthful to include in a diet, but I'm not sure fruit juice would qualify. The sugar content is sky high, regardless of how natural it is, and likely causes a commensurate rise in insulin. Natural doesn't always equal healthful. Sure, you get some vitamins and minerals in juice, but those can also be found in the whole fruit. Of course, if you are going to literally DIE of thirst and you have a choice of only juice or Coke, go with the juice.

Anyone have any thoughts on the issue? Am I on base or off in left field?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Life is Fragile

I had a post nearly finished for today, but I'm going to let it wait until tomorrow. I don't much feel like writing right now. On my way home from work, traffic slowed and then about a 1/4 mile up from me, I noticed a silver SUV upside-down in the median of I-64 and then a guy headed west-bound that had stopped and was running back to the SUV. At that point, I was too far away to leave my car in the middle of traffic, so I picked up my phone and called 911. When I got up to the accident, I pulled off to the shoulder and got out. A girl (probably my age) had been taken out of the vehicle by the first guy on the scene and there were I guess 5 of us guys with the SUV and 2 women with the girl on the ground. There was a guy still in the car, obviously not wearing a seatbelt, as he was laying on his head/neck/shoulders with his legs bringing his stomach to his face. He seemed to be moving or twitching and some of the guys were talking to him to let him know help was on the way and to stay with us. Nobody could move him due to his positioning and weight, not that we should have anyway given the injuries he may have had.

I have to give a hand to EMS. In under 5 minutes there were 2 fire engines, a Fire Dept SUV, and an ambulance on the scene, in rush hour traffic. They quickly took control of the situation, securing the SUV so it wouldn't slide down the median onto the girl on the ground. I was thinking "Why didn't I think to tell them to send more than 1 ambulance?" but given that I hadn't arrived at the scene yet, there is no way I could've known how many were involved. They managed to get the guy out of the SUV and it was obvious he had been unable to breathe in the position he was in. His head, neck, and chest were bluish-purple from oxygen deprivation. As they were working on resuscitating him, I decided I was doing nothing there but gawking and since I wasn't a witness to the accident, I bowed out.

In the end, I didn't do anything at the scene, but I feel good knowing that I stopped and was available to help out if needed. The other people there before me had taken care of everything that could be taken care of before EMS arrived. I was quite shaken up during the drive home. The first guy on the scene was very shaken up and crying. I told him that he had done well, although I'm sure he will be wrangling with himself over other things he could've done. I came home and the accident was on the news. The guy that was in the truck died. It's the first time I've ever been so closely involved with a death. Sure, I didn't have anything to do with the accident, but I was likely there when he died.

I am furious at all the people that didn't stop. There was an SUV upside-down and only one guy on the scene. There was a 1/4 mile of traffic between me and the SUV and by the time I got there, only the semi driver, 3 or 4 other people, and the two ladies that were also involved in the accident had stopped. I watched people in the west-bound lanes go around the vehicle rather than stopping. To those people I ask: Is your life that busy that you can't stop to help your fellow man? Do you really have such important things to do? What happened to all of those cars between me and the accident? I guess everyone just thought "Yippee! Open highway!"

Part of me wonders if we should have moved him so that he wasn't laying in such a precarious position. Would it have helped? Might he have lived? There's no way of knowing and it sucks. I feel sorry for the lady that hit the SUV. It was an accident and she has to live the rest of her life knowing that a slip in her attention caused the death of another and caused untold amounts of physical and mental pain to the girl involved.

The only point I can make with this post is that life is fragile. This whole thing makes me think of an article I posted awhile back: Don't Die With Your Music Still In You. You never know what's going to happen, or when. Today it was Carl. Tomorrow it could be me or you. Make sure you're getting everything you want out of life. I hope that the moment before he died, this fellow was able to think, "At least I did the things I wanted to do with my life to this point." Too many of us go through life on auto-pilot and regret it later. If you have to make changes in your life, make them, but make sure you're happy.

I apologize for rambling, but I'm still stunned. And please, please, please fasten your seatbelt. It could just save your life.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Guinness is Good For You

Photo courtesy of Flickr

From the "fun file" comes this delightful tidbit: Guinness is Good For You. We already knew that Guinness was a delicious addition to a meal. And now we discover that it can help reduce heart attack-causing clotting activity in the blood. Note that Guinness, and probably other stouts and porters, but not lagers (drinkers of funky American macrobrews take note) provides this life-saving and important duty to the human race. This is great news for those of us that like good beer.

Here's to your heart!

Follow-up to "The Drugging of Our Children"

Yesterday, we had a bit of discussion on my post about The Drugging of Our Children. As luck would have it, Ross Enamait posted this article about the dangers of food additives to kids and their connection to hyperactivity and other disruptive behaviors in this post at his blog. I really can't top what he had to say, so I'm going to paste my favorite part here for all to enjoy...hop over to Ross' blog to read the rest.

It is not the child's job to read up on the dangers of food additives. We as parents must assume this responsibility. Being a parent is a responsibility and privilege. Part of this privilege means taking care of our children. Children don't buy food. We buy the food that they eat.

If you care about your children, you will make educated decisions regarding nutritional habits. Just because your child wants something doesn't mean that they will always get it.

Top notch post by Ross.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Cochrane Report on Low-Carb Diets

Check out Dr. Eades post from yesterday on the Cochrane Report on low-carb diets.

A few months ago the Cochrane Collaboration released a study showing that subjects on low-carb diets lost more weight and improved their cardiovascular risk profiles to a greater extent than did subjects following any other kind of diet. Did you read about this study in your local paper or see it on the evening news? I didn’t think so. I didn’t either.

Hop on over to his site to read the rest.

The Drugging of our Children

(Photo courtesy of WikiMedia) Here is a long, interesting, and infuriating video by Gary Null titled The Drugging of Our Children. It explores the prevalence of Ritalin for the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Michael Moore is interviewed in the film, and while I'm not a huge fan of his, he is pretty well spot-on with his words in this film.

There are interviews with several young people that have been on drugs for ADHD and/or depression, all with interesting stories of the effects Ritalin and the SSRIs had on them and their demeanor. One lady's story entails her refusal to put her child on Ritalin as the school demanded she do for him to stay in school. Child Protective Services removed her son from the home and put him on the drugs. She later "kidnapped" him and left for Canada, but the FBI pursued her there and had her son put back into an institution. She had a choice of political asylum in Canada or fighting to keep her son. She chose to be imprisoned to fight for her son. To this day, her son has still not been returned to her. Granted, she shouldn't have taken her son from a government facility.

Obviously this is only one side of the story and is intended to create a certain reaction, but the video is quite interesting. I can't speak on Ritalin or SSRIs as I'm not a doctor nor well-versed in the workings of those drugs. I will say though that I doubt either ADHD or depression is underdiagnosed. I highly doubt that MORE kids need to be on these drugs, especially when it's quite possible that a change in diet, sleep, or exercise patterns could rid a child of ADHD. A kid fed the typical morning breakfast of sugary cereal or waffles or Pop-Tarts is unlikely to be able to pay attention very well in class.

It almost seems like the schools are trying to medicate the "kid" right out of the child. Three times as many boys are diagnosed with ADHD compared to girls. Perhaps the learning environment is not set up for the way that boys learn. Boys and girls are not the same and something tells me that there isn't something inherently wrong with boys that makes them more susceptible to this disease, especially since it's reported in the video that there is no actual difference in brain activity of an ADHD vs non-ADHD brain. Maybe the boys are bored so they act up. And in a system where teachers and counselors are making diagnoses based on subjective determinations, rather than objective tests, the bias towards boys seems to confirm that there is something else going on.

We live in a fast-paced culture now. In most households, both parents work to be "successful". Poor nutrition is prevalent in our society. This study reports that 51% of families eat fast food one to two times a week and 7% eat it three to four times a week. Family dinner time doesn't exist anymore and with the growth of over-sugared, under-exercised, and overweight kids, it's easy to see that the delicate balance of hormones in a kid's brain could go a bit haywire. That doesn't mean the proper recourse is a drug. It is the easy way, but not the proper way when switching to a diet based on natural foods and spending some time exercising or playing as a family would do wonders for the child. Once you start medicating, you then have to medicate the side effects, of which many report hallucinations and violent tendencies. And then there are the ties to murder and suicide.

This story reminded me about this article Most People Are Depressed for a Very Good Reason. There are probably some cases where antidepressants are the right course of action. There are probably many more where the right course of action is for the person taking them to make changes to their life.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Eating Together

Science Daily had this article a few days ago titled Eating Together As A Family Creates Better Eating Habits Later In Life.

Eating together as a family during adolescence is associated with lasting positive effects on dietary quality in young adulthood, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota.
The researchers found eating family meals together during adolescence resulted in adults who ate more fruit, dark-green and orange vegetables and key nutrients, and drank less soft drinks. Frequency of family meals predicted females would eat breakfast as adults. For both sexes, frequency of family meals as adolescents predicted eating dinner more frequently as adults, placing a higher priority on structured meals and a higher priority on social eating.

My family ate together at least 80% of the time when I was growing up. Either Mom or Jim cooked our delicious, balanced meals and everyone that was home sat and ate. At dinner time, we came home from playing outside, washed up, and ate with the family where we actually conversed (a foreign concept these days). Once dinner was over, us kids were free to go back to running around the neighborhood like hooligans, but only after we washed and dried the dishes. Our family meals were far more healthful than the norm, and while they may not conform to my "fanatical" standards now, all in all, they were a very solid base to a lifetime of proper eating. We always had a protein of some sort: steak, pork chops, roast, etc. A vegetable or two was always, always, always served and everyone of us took a little bit of everything, whether we liked it or not. I recall having to force myself to eat my broccoli and today I eat entire stalks of it willingly. And there was often a starch - potatoes, rice, noodles, bread, etc. Sure, I don't eat the starchy grain products with regularity anymore and there wasn't a bottle of olive oil nearby for dousing everything, but I would call our family dinners nutritious.

My Mom isn't a nutritionist by any means, but somehow she instinctively knew how to put together a nice delicious well-balanced meal. I would surmise that her mother cooked much the same way and unsurprisingly, my Mom and her siblings are all healthy adults. If more families ate like this, and took the time to eat together, we'd probably see fewer health problems in the nation. Just taking the time to slow down and eat, converse, and enjoy the company of others would be a big boon over the cram-a-burger-and-fries-down-your-gullet-while-running-errands eating culture that we have today.

And recall that kids will eat more vegetables if they're homegrown.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

101 Things in 1001 Days

This is a cool exercise that I undertook yesterday. It's called "101 Things in 1001 Days" and it has little to do with what I typically talk about here. This is about setting realistic, but stretch, goals with a long, but not too long, timeline of 1001 days to accomplish them. That is about 2.75 years to do the things you want to do with your life. I made my list yesterday and I have until June 2nd, 2010 (today is my start day, so do the math accordingly) to complete all of the items on the list. I'm not going to share all of my things with you because some of the people that I am going to do things for might read them and be anticipating, but I will give you a few examples of things I've chosen as goals.

- Drive cross-country, avoiding Interstates. Eat only at local restaurants.
- Bike more miles than I drive 3 months in a row
- Clean out file cabinet
- Go White Water rafting
- Deadlift 2.5 times bodyweight
- Eat only grass-fed/pastured/wild meats and seafood (except when dining at family/friend's houses)
- Pay off school loan
- Help with Habitat for Humanity
- Read 30 books
- Take a surfing class
- Donate $5 to charity for each item not completed by Day 1001

I divided my goals into categories: Personal, De-clutter, Adventure/Travel/Outdoors, Business/Blog, Health/Fitness, Food-related, Financial, Random Kindness/Charity, and Self-Improvement. You don't necessarily have to come up with 101 things. The purpose is in the setting of and striving for goals, not in the absolute number of them. If you can come up with 25 things to do in the next 1001 days, that is more than most people do. It's really interesting to see the things that you'd like to do laid out on paper, having a solid record of them that you can tick off.

This is an exercise that I'd suggest everyone undertake. That link above has plenty of other people's lists that can be used for motivation, since coming up with 101 things on your own can be pretty difficult without something to spur some thinking. Feel free to post some of your goals for the next 2.75 years to the comments.

A Squat Alternative

I just found the Straight to the Bar blog and along came this post: The Step-Up. It looks like it could be a good change of pace from the squat, although the squat is a movement that absolutely MUST be in your strength building repertoire. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Replacing Spaghetti, Low-Carb Style

I picked up a spaghetti squash at the farmer's market Saturday, along with some onions, a few zucchini, and a yellow squash (and myriad other things that aren't part of the picture above). Tonight, I baked the squash and then mixed it with 2 cans of El Pato and an onion, a zucchini, and the yellow squash, which I had sauteed in some beef tallow. On the other part of the plate are 4 pastured chicken thighs that I also picked up at the farmer's market. And sorry for the poor lighting, but I was hungry and didn't feel like moving the food for a better picture.

So what's my point? Essentially I could have turned this into a standard Italian dinner by using spaghetti sauce instead of El Pato. Spaghetti squash is a perfect replacement for spaghetti. If you think about it, spaghetti really has no flavor. It is merely a carrier for whatever sauce is on it. Spaghetti squash has a really mild flavor and I find it to be tastier than spaghetti, since it actually has a flavor. The flavor is slightly nutty and the texture is a touch crunchy. No more need for "low-carb spaghetti" since you can avoid the crappy grain products and use an all-natural item for your Italian fix. I was also able to fit in quite a range of other vegetables as well (although it's weird mixing winter squash and summer squash).

Now for the nutritional differences (1 cup of each):
Whole-wheat Spaghetti
31g net carbs
174 calories

Spaghetti squash
8g net carbs
42 calories

I think the winner, hands down, is spaghetti squash, even when compared against the "healthful" whole-wheat spaghetti.

To bake a spaghetti squash, cut it in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and place both halves face down in about 1" of water. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes. Then simply run a fork through the center of the squash to bring out the middle in strands, hence spaghetti squash. Top it with your favorite spaghetti sauce and some meatballs and you have Italian.

And the tasty beverage you see behind the plate is a Young's Oatmeal Stout. This stuff is the Nectar of the Gods with hints of chocolate, coffee, maybe a touch of caramel and a thick lingering head. Were I a big-time drinker, I think I could put a keg of this stuff away.

Our Growing Waistlines

Photo courtesy of MSN

This study hit the news last week: America Grows Fatter.

Mississippi has exceeded the 30% obesity rate for adults, the first time any state's population has done so, reported a health advocacy group. But 19 other states with large obese populations are not far behind.

30%! That's nearly 1 in 3 people that is obese in that state. Even Colorado, the "leanest" state is rocking a 17.6% obesity rate: more than 1 in 6 in Colorado are obese. And the other 48 states (plus DC) fall somewhere in the middle. My homestate of Kentucky is 7th with 27.5%, according to this report. And 1 in 5 of our kids are overweight in Kentucky, which in politically-correct jargon means obese, but we're afraid to call little Tommy obese.

Now, Dr. Eades has taken them to task over the methods of data collection and reporting. I don't disagree with him. The data in studies is often manipulated and massaged to produce what the authors want. And then the media reporting of it is generally geared in such a way as to create a great story, whether the report matches what the study says or not. The underlying reality is that at best, the stats are under-reported and there are even more obese folks walking around than the report says. In fact, I don't think we really even need these studies to tell us that America is getting fatter and fatter. A quick glance around you will tell you all you need to know.

Whether it's 30% or 40% is really irrelevant. It's too high of a percent. Our lack of exercise and poor eating habits are going to lead many in our nation to an early grave. But I can't get behind any kind of government intervention. As I mentioned in the comments of Dr. Eades' blog, the government foray into nutrition advice is much of what has us in this predicament in the first place, not to mention the Farm Bill and subsidies that support the prodigious amounts of cheap sugar and corn (which is turned into sugar) that keep us growing and growing. The Food Guide Pyramid is an excellent example of what's wrong with the government setting policy on our nutrition. Any new attempts will a) not stray far from the current pyramid because the government is far more concerned with saving face than with giving us proper recommendations and b) will go to the highest bidder. We don't need the government to save us. Personal responsibility is what we need. If people would focus on proper nutrition and exercise, their weight issues would miraculously disappear.

Our Dependence on China

Here is an interesting article from NPR about Chinese imports. First it was pet food and now it's toothpaste and children's toys. China turns out a great number of the goods that we consume here in the States and apparently quality isn't the top priority. In an increasingly global society, it is impossible to avoid some imports without going into a cave and hunting and gathering your own food. But you can minimize your exposure to some of the dangers of consuming goods from countries where regulations aren't quite as strict as they are here. For one, you can support your local farmers at the farmer's markets in your area, sticking tofresh, seasonal foods as much as possible.

Here are a few thoughts about some of the things coming in from China.

Last month, FDA inspectors blocked 257 food shipments from China, according to the list.
In the past year, the FDA rejected a higher proportion of food shipments from China than from any other country.

China is increasing the number of food products exported to the US every year, while also having products fail the tests more than any other country, even after taking into account the higher volume of shipments.

When Hubbard was at the FDA, he heard all kinds of stories about foreign food processors, like the one a staffer told him after visiting a Chinese factory that makes herbal tea. "To speed up the drying process, they would lay the tea leaves out on a huge warehouse floor and drive trucks over them so that the exhaust would more rapidly dry the leaves out," Hubbard says. "And the problem there is that the Chinese use leaded gasoline, so they were essentially spewing the lead over all these leaves."
The FDA normally inspects about 1 percent of all food and food ingredients at U.S. borders. It does tests on about half of 1 percent.

How does that make you feel about eating imported food products?

Now, I'm not anti-globalization. I am a big believer in a free-market economy and in a capitalist society, what a business values first and foremost is money. Producing value for shareholders is the number 1 goal of a corporation, for better or for worse. We as consumers have to demand that our corporations give us safe products and if you are interested in stopping the flood of imported products, stop buying them (which can be very difficult). Remember that in an economy where money talks, voting with your dollars for the companies that take consumer protection into account is the strongest statement you can make.

New Domain

Hey hey! I've redirected my domain name from to The old URL will redirect to the new one, but you can update your bookmarks accordingly anyway.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Benefits of Protein for the Elderly

To go along with the post on age and exercise, here is an article titled The Benefits of Protein for the Elderly from Science Daily.

This won't come as a surprise to most of us here, but it could be beneficial to our loved ones.

A new study recently published suggests that a diet containing a moderate amount of protein-rich food such as beef, fish, pork, chicken, dairy or nuts may help slow the deterioration of elderly people's muscles.

The article goes on to say that reducing muscle mass decline is vital in the health of the elderly. As Anna mentioned in the comments of the previous post, there is somewhat of a catch-22 with the elderly and the well-known "shuffle walk" they many of them do. They shuffle to maintain balance, which has been lost due to declining muscle mass. But shuffling keeps the muscles from being worked, so they further decline in strength, which results in even less balance and more shuffling. It's a vicious cycle.

Elderly people may eat less protein for a number of reasons, said Paddon-Jones, including cost, the fact that many foods may not taste as good to them as they once did, difficulty chewing, limited menus in nursing homes or assisted living communities, and decline in appetite. Another important contributor to muscle loss in the elderly is a lack of exercise, he noted.

Of course, we all know the value of a diet rich in protein and fat, but so many people are stuck on a high-carb diet (nearly always low in protein) with lots of joint-pounding, muscle-wasting aerobic activity. Both of these things lead to a decline in muscle mass and a decline in functionality as one ages. The way to go into old age with vigor and vitality, able to care for oneself is a nutrient-rich, low-carb diet (don't fear the fat) and lots of intense, muscle-building activity.

With the increasing cost of health care, it's important to remain functional as long as possible, so take care of yourself and maybe you'll be one of those 80-90 year olds running track in the Senior Olympics, laughing in the face of old age.

Happy Labor Day!

Enjoy your day off. Go to a cookout, visit family, or just relax. I couldn't find any good, non-political pictures for Labor Day, so enjoy looking at my dog.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sports Culture (Semi-rant Warning)

College football season is upon us, along with pro football exhibition games, the end of the baseball season, and in October, the beginning of the NBA basketball season, to be followed closely by the beginning of college basketball. I know when all of these seasons start not because I actually care, but because so many people care far too much and spend far too much time talking about it. You can't turn on the TV or open a newspaper without seeing just how important sports are in our daily lives. From now until March, we will be inundated with opportunities to watch other people play sports.

I find our view of sports to be part of our obesity problem. Sports and fitness are viewed as something for athletes rather than as something for the common man. Invariably, sports are for the young, rather than for the old. Once you hit 30, you're more likely to be watching sports than participating in them. At a young age, we teach our kids to be the best in their sport or get out of it. Parents today push their kids to specialize in and train for football or basketball or baseball year-round rather than playing football in the fall, basketball in winter, running track and field in spring, and playing baseball in the summer. Experimentation is out as parents push their kids to become a big name in something, to become the star that they themselves weren't. Check out this article (found on Mark Sisson's blog) about an 8-year old girl that has been forced to run 2200 miles in the past 2 months to satisfy her father's desire to get her in the 2016 Olympics. Sure that's an extreme example, but parent's living vicariously through their kids athletic endeavors sets sport up for failure as we drive the fun out of sport, which is essentially a game.

We've turned sport into a grueling endeavor, devoid of fun. I'm not talking the "Kum By Yah," we-don't-need-to-keep-score-because-we're-all-winners-for-playing attitude. Hey, I'm one of the most competitive people I know, somewhat to a fault. When I'm engaged in sports (or unfortunately board games or it a vice), I'm playing to win, but I'm playing fair and having a good time. And if I lose, I don't feel bad about myself and if I win, I don't gloat over the vanquished suckers that took a drubbing. Teaching people about healthy competition, along with teamwork and getting some activity, is the intent of sports. The business of sports is what's ruining it. The prevailing thought seems to be "if you aren't going pro, there's no point in playing," so we sit on our collective rumps and watch others play college sports and pro sports, while we get fatter and less athletic. And I can't help but laugh at the people that can recite every sports stat for the last 10 years but can't run down a basketball court once. There seems to be an inverse proportion of sports knowledge and athletic ability.

Now, I'm not saying not to enjoy watching the local college team play a game or not to knock back a couple frosty beers with your friends on a Saturday to watch some football. But so many people are engaged all year long with keeping track of the recruiting, meticulously scrutinizing every stat, and arguing about which team will be better and who will beat whom. Why do people spend so much time and get so worked up over a team full of kids (18-22 year olds) that they've never met, will probably never meet, and who could give a flip if they ever meet a fan at all? In A Bronx Tale Sonny says something to the effect of, "You think if your father couldn't pay his rent that Mickey Mantle would care? Would Mickey Mantle pay your rent? Mickey Mantle makes $200,000 a year - he don't care about you, why care about him? Nobody cares." It's an illustrative point. The coach, the players, the whole team doesn't even know that the individual fans exist and were the fans to actually not exist, little would change. Why should we invest so much energy in them?

People get far too worked up over something that they really have no vested interest in. I can understand being a big-time fan if you're the coach's wife or mother, a relative of a player, or affiliated with the school. I have a friend that is such a big fan of the University of Louisville that if they lose a game, his day is ruined. If it's noon, he will go home and pout or go to bed. Why relegate so much control of your life to something that you have no control over? And then there's the xenophobic aspect, ingrained in the human animal to distrust all who aren't of our group (politicians play this aspect of human nature very well), to automatically think negatively of people that cheer for the rival. I heard one guy talk about getting in fights with fans of the other team at bars. That sounds like a wholly healthful endeavor; what a good way to spend a Saturday! I always thought sports were intended as a means of meeting people and sharing camaraderie, even with the opposition.

I guess I've just grown out of it. I was a die hard University of Kentucky fan all through my childhood, pretty much up until the time I graduated with my bachelor's degree (from rival U of Louisville ironically). At that point, I realized that I was older than most of the players and began transitioning away from caring (not really consciously, just kind of the path I took). I'm an alum of the University of Notre Dame as well, definitely some of the most loyal and vocal fans in the nation. During the year I was in school there, I got into the spirit, but since then, I don't really care. I watch the games if it's convenient. I don't rearrange my life to make sure I don't miss a single game. If I'm around with nothing to do, I'll turn it on. And while they're on, I get into it and cheer and enjoy myself. And when the game is over, win or lose, my life is completely unaffected. I don't spend the next week rehashing the game or reminiscing on the big plays or yammering about "what ifs". My involvement in college sports (I don't even pay attention to pro sports...couldn't tell you who plays for which team) is confined to the few hours that it is on, more approaching the level of disinterested observer than rabid fan. I discovered last year that I didn't know the name of any of the UK basketball players for half the season.

I would much rather get up, get out, and do something active for myself than be a passive spectator. If you give me a choice of going for a long hike or ski trip through the month of March or watching every March Madness Tournament game, guess which one I'll take. I'll be long gone by the time the first game tips off and won't care that I don't see a single one. I'd miss the Championship Game if I had something else to be doing. Unfortunately, I'm probably in a minority that would give up the ability to watch all of the games and keep precise tabs on the outcomes. Any guy that proclaims to not really care too much about sports is suspect in our culture where every red-blooded American male is taught that, by golly, if you're going to be a REAL man, you spend Saturday and Sunday pinned to the TV watching football, drinking beer, and eating Cheesy Poofs.

Please, for the love of humanity, stop talking about Barry Bonds and his alleged steroid use (note that it has only been truly proven in our "guilty until found innocent" media environment). It doesn't affect you and it doesn't affect me. As I said, I don't take issue with people that just sit down and watch their favorite team play. Hell, I sat down to watch yesterday's beating at the hands of Georgia Tech with a Honker's Ale and some blue corn chips and habanero salsa (which was delicious!). Notre Dame got killed and my blood pressure never rose. I didn't yell, scream, or allow it to affect my life. Nor did I have anything else to do having already hit the farmer's market, the grocery, and done an intense workout. I was free to just sit and watch, knowing that the more important things in life were taken care of.

But following the recruiting and arguing all week about the upcoming game or the just played game or who's going to win the Heisman or who's going to win the National Championship is ridiculous. One other thing that REALLY irks me: the use of "we" in reference to a team. Fans of every school say "we just scored," "we won," etc. No, "we" didn't do a thing. Those guys on the field (or court) won. You had no involvement whatsoever in their win. You may think you're an integral part of the team, but you're not. You're just one of millions of people that place great importance on the athletic achievements of others.

I just wish people would devote as much time to their own health as they devote to cheering for (and defending) a team that they don't play on. And let your kids play every sport if they want to. It doesn't matter if they're the A-One player on the team as long as they are able to go out, have fun, and get some exercise with friends. Perhaps that would help clear up some of our country's mounting health issues.

Fantasy Sports....well, I'm not even going to go there. Can sports spectatorship get any more pathetic than playing a game based around watching other people play a game? I guess I just went there.

Thoughts? Anyone? My flame suit is ready for the fury I may have just incited.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

But I'm Too Old To Exercise

I've really been enjoying Ross Enamait's series on older athletes getting it done.
Dara Torres wins 100m Freestyle at age 40
59-year old playing college football
Randy Couture wins UFC Heavyweight Championship at 44
We all know (or maybe are) people that find any excuse under the sun to not get any physical activity. Yet, CrossFit and The Performance Menu are loaded with 40-plus athletes rocking killer bodies and even better athletic performances. Sure, age makes a difference in how quickly the body recovers and how much muscle can be built, but look at guys like Jack LaLanne and Art De Vany. Art is 70 and LaLanne is in his 90s, both still strong as can be by following evolutionary practices of eating unprocessed foods and hitting intense exercise. Art also throws in some fasting here and there.

And then I came across this WebMD article that dances around the issue and seems a bit wishy-washy (not that I'd expect otherwise from WebMD).

First, they give some advice that is quite a surprise coming from WebMD: do something other than long, joint-pounding runs. Considering this site likes to focus on the high-carb, low-fat, aerobics is good crowd, this is huge.

"Even if you're aerobically active, you don't prevent loss of muscles. If you do exactly the same thing, you will lose muscle and gain fat. Strength training is the only way to increase or preserve muscle mass."

But here's where they get back to the excuses for not being in shape.
"It is also natural in the aging process," she says, "to automatically lose a sense of balance." She discovered that when she tried taking her grandchildren ice-skating after 30 years off the ice: "I was all over the place," she says.

Hmmm....naturally lost balance; it couldn't have anything to do with 30 years off the ice could it? They then go on to say that with some practice she's back to doing jumps and spins. As they say in their article, "Use it or lose it." One of my favorite excuses for people not exercising is "I'm too out of shape." Well you have to start some time.

Older athletes do have to be more diligent with recovery and nutrition than their younger counterparts, but age is not an excuse for not being fit. Proper training and proper nutrition will allow your body to express its genes properly rather than languishing into an increasingly decrepit old age. Check out the Senior Olympics in 2009 in the Bay Area to see some old folks that aren't letting age hold them back. It looks like there isn't a 2008 Games and 2007 was in Louisville in June, which unfortunately I didn't get a chance to see.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Prolonging The Magic

I came across the picture above and this link, which give good descriptions of proper storage for various fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The Periodic Table of Produce above is a real gem. It tells where, how, and for how long to store numerous items. For instance, a quick glance reveals that Broccoli should go in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic, for up to 5 days. Onions, cool dry place, unwrapped, for up to 2 months with a few exceptions. Winter squash is good for a month in a cool dry place. Strawberries go in the fridge in a vented container for 3 days. As the table says in the upper left corner, this would be a great item to print out and hang on the front of the refrigerator for a quick reference guide. I can attest that putting my fresh basil (see Herbs, leafy in the lower right corner) in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag allowed me to use it for a good 6 days instead of the usual 3 days max before it dried out.

One of the things that can make a high-quality nutrition plan even more prodigiously expensive is waste. Throwing away fruits and vegetables, especially if they're organic, can add quite a bit to your food bill. Now that I have this list, that will help me reduce my waste some, but I also have another method of saving produce before it turns into mush: the freezer! When I get down to the last ribs of celery or have a few leaves of basil left or a couple carrots that are going to go bad, I throw them into a Ziploc bag and freeze them and when the bag gets full, I make vegetable soup with whatever else is in the fridge working through its useful life.

And here's a chance for me to talk about farmer's markets again. One of the really beautiful things about reputable farmer's markets (the ones where the farmers actually grow the produce locally) is that the food is much fresher than that at your local grocer. The produce that I get from my local growers was all picked within the last few days and was picked when it was ripe. In The End of Food, Thomas Pawlick talked about the method of picking conventional produce before its ripe so that it doesn't go bad during shipping, then artificially ripening it with acetylene gas to make it look like an apple or a peach is supposed to look, although this method doesn't make them taste like a truly ripe apple or peach.

So there you go. Now you can store your produce with impunity.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma

Last week, I put to rest another book. This time it was The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one and the 400 or so pages flew by. It's not an overly technical read, quite enjoyable. There was really only one point of contention that I had with anything said in the book and that was his mention of "the previously discredited Dr. Robert Atkins" or some such statement. I've never seen any scientific research that can actually discredit Dr. Atkins, but the dogma of today makes him seem like a quack. We can only hope that one day people see the truth about avoiding the types of foods Dr. Atkins advised us to avoid, namely the processed garbage that is the cornerstone of the Food Guide Pyramid.

The book is setup in three parts following four different food chains: industrial agriculture culminating in a McDonald's meal, industrial organic, pastoral organic at Polyface Farm, and a hunted and gathered meal. The first part of the book is both riveting and appalling, with loads of very interesting stats. Pollan describes how two crops are dissected into their constituent parts to be rebuilt into the tens of thousands of food products lining our store shelves. These two crops are corn and soy. Corn provides starch, soy provides protein, and either or both can provide the fat that make up the myriad products that you see in your local supermarket. These two crops are so ubiquitous that corn is in at least 25% of the processed foods in the grocery and soy is in around 2/3 of them. That really puts the $3-4 a box for some junk food into perspective. It's just another mix of corn and soy with some stabilizers thrown in for good measure.

In the first section of the book, we also get an in-depth description of the sex life of corn and Pollan describes the evolutionary changes that maize underwent to become the corn that we know today with its huge kernels and reliance on humans for pollination. We follow a single proverbial bushel of corn to its various destinations, 60% of it into feed for cows, 20% processed into Twinkies and Pop-Tarts, etc. This corn is a particular breed (I think it's called "#2 Corn," but can't recall exactly) that humans don't typically eat directly. Most of it goes into our industrial facilities to be turned into either animal protein or junk food.

Speaking of animal protein, Pollan gives a small but significant synopsis of the issues of corn-feeding cows vs. grass-feeding them. One issue is the proliferation of E.Coli 0157:H7 in the guts of corn-fed cows. This is the nasty virulent strain that causes all kinds of ills to those unlucky enough to ingest it. The way it works is that cows are ruminants, intended to eat grass. When fed corn, the intestinal tracts of the cows becomes acidic, killing off all but the most acid-resistant bacteria. These acid-resistant bacteria are the 0157:H7 strain of E.Coli. So it would seem logical to not feed them corn, but corn-feeding is how we manage to turn out cheap, abundant meat quickly. A corn-fed cow comes to market weight in only 14-16 months, while a grass-fed cow takes several years to come to full weight. But since the high-corn diet makes the cows sick, they have to pumped up on antibiotics and are also fed growth hormones to speed the process. All of this goes into the food we eat, not to mention the poor fatty acid profile of typical feedlot meat, very high in omega-6 fatty acids, with little omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acids. Luckily, farmers are now selectively breeding cows to tolerate a diet of corn. Whew! I almost thought we might resort to something illogical like putting the cows on grass.

But I digress. Here are some other interesting tidbits from this section:
- America produces 17.5 billion pounds of High Fructose Corn Syrup per year. BILLION! That's 8.75 million TONS of a product that didn't exist until 1980.
- Americans consume 158 pounds of added sugars per person per year. That's an increase from 128 pounds in 1985.
- Forty-five of the sixty products at McDonald's contain corn.
- Twenty-three of the thirty-eight ingredients in a McNugget are corn-derived.
- One in three kids eat fast food daily.
- One in three kids will get diabetes (one presumes a large subset of the 1-in-3 that eat fast food daily). For African-Americans, that number is two in five.

Section two is about organic farming, specifically two kinds of organic farming: industrial organic and pastoral organic. First, he explores the industrial organic complex. Think Whole Foods where you can buy organic everything and most of it isn't from your local food producers. Strawberries from Chile, asparagus from California, etc. The ingredients of an industrial organic meal travel an average of 1500 miles to get to your plate. It may be more healthful than a meal of conventionally grown foods, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily more environmentally friendly. Pollan explores the notion of organic TV dinners and the organic farms that sit right next to conventional farms, run by the same people. It is an interesting concept to ponder. On the one hand, eating organic is more healthful for the eaters and doesn't douse the land with petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. More land under organic control means fewer chemicals in our land and waterways. On the other hand, is an organic Snicker's any better than a conventionally produced one? We have the power to produce nearly anything organically, but does that make it a good idea to do so? And since organic foods must be trucked or flown in from far away, is it more or less environmentally friendly than eating a locally produced meal of conventional agriculture products?

Pollan's week at Polyface Farm sounds truly intriguing and enlightening. Polyface is a true pastoral farm. They raise cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, and rabbits on their 450 acre farm, most of which is wooded. The animals are rotated through the available pasture in a precise dance that ensures each animal gets to eat the food most appropriate for it, all of it grass-based. Joel Salatin, the farm's owner, actually calls himself a "grass farmer". He ensures that the grass receives the proper natural fertilization and amount of rest before reintroducing the cows to feed and drop their patties, which the chickens then come behind later and peck through to eat the grubs. The trees are planted strategically to keep the wind from destroying the pastures and are used as a sustainable lumber operation. Everything about this farm, from the way the manure is turned into fertilizer (through the use of pigs) to the way the chickens are slaughtered (open air, viewable by anyone) is sustainable. Little of anything on the farm is brought in from outside and the entire farming operation is produced on-farm by the work of the sun and the animals coordinated in a natural rhythm. And because Salatin believes in buying local, he refuses to ship his products anywhere but the local Virginia and Maryland markets, which is why Pollan ended up there working the farm. One chapter talks about Pollan's internal struggles with slaughtering a chicken and turning the chicken waste into yet more fertilizer.

Next up, Pollan investigates vegetarianism and the ethics of eating meat. He cites Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, several times. Singer is a noted animal rights activist and vegetarian. But the really interesting part of Singer's take on animal rights is that he doesn't disagree with responsible farming of the type performed at Polyface. That one of the most vehement opposers of using animals for food can't find an argument against allowing cows, pigs, and chickens to live the lives of cows, pigs, and chickens, only to later be used as food speaks volumes to the responsibility and sustainability of grass-based farming. Aside from the health benefits of eating properly raised animal products, turning away from the conventional agriculture so predominant in our cheap food culture is friendly to the environment and to our animal brethren.

Finally, Pollan goes on his own hunting and gathering expedition to create a completely (or mostly) home-grown meal. His goals are to hunt a California pig and gather chanterelle mushrooms. He meets a fellow that is well-versed in pig hunting and mushroom gathering that agrees to take him out. After he successfully bags a pig, he goes through all kinds of emotions, ranging from disgust at himself for enjoying it to thankfulness for the pig that became part of the never-ending circle of life. The description of mushrooms is absolutely fascinating and I won't give away all of the details here, but thinking of the network growing below the ground, of which a mushroom is only a small little part, is incredible. It is like a brain network within the earth.

All in all, I absolutely loved this book. I give it 5 stars. Sure, not every conventional farmer is like the Iowans he interviewed, but he does a good job of exploring the issues surrounding our food chains, of which we are increasingly removed and which is amazingly opaque. Understanding where our food comes from, how it is grown and processed, and how it gets to us is the best way for returning to a healthful life.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Training Room Snacks

So I was off walking around the building this morning (with a goal in mind, not just wandering aimlessly) and I happened to glance into the Training Room as I walked by. They were preparing for their 8am training class and had plates of snacks at each spot. My brief glance noted that the plates were full of small bags of M&Ms, mini candy bars, and other junk food. Is the goal to keep people awake or to give them a sugar coma so it's easier to fall asleep? Why does the food in a corporate environment nearly always have to be garbage?

Monday, August 27, 2007

First, We Have to Render Fat

Last week, I realized that I was running a 15 cubic foot freezer to keep about 2 cubic feet of food cold. Not being a fan of wasting electricity (freezers work harder the less frozen stuff there is in them), I decided to consolidate it all into the freezer with the dog food. While doing so, I found several pounds of beef suet that I hadn't touched since making pemmican for my ski trip in January. So I decided to do something with it....namely, I decided to render it into cooking fat. What you see above is the result of leaving it on the stove for a few hours of melting, occasionally straining it and putting it into the jar. I didn't take a picture of the leftover bits, but when you render fat, the fat turns to liquid and separates from the protein and other parts leaving pure liquid fat and bits of funky looking stuff (industry terminology). These bits of funky looking stuff went in the trash. Harder core people than I may have some use for them, but I just tossed them without searching for any use for them. I now have 2 jars of delicious, healthful, grass-fed fat for use in cooking. I probably could have squeezed another 1/4-1/2 a jar from the leftovers, but I had been at it for 2.5 hours, bedtime was nearing, and I was tired. This fat has a delicious buttery flavor and its high level of saturation (OH MY GOD, I'M GONNA DIE!) gives it great level of stability in cooking to go with a high melting point.

If you do render fat, make sure you are prepared to clean because this stuff is sticky! Going back to that high melting point, it is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is the stability that it lends to the fat in cooking. The curse is that it I had to run the hot water on full blast to get the fat to melt, give 2 scrubbings of the pot, spoon, and strainer that I used, and lots of work to clean up drips here and there. It was definitely worth it, but it's not the easiest job in the world.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Big Mac Turns 40

"The flavors that come together — it's like heaven in your mouth," said April Kohlhaas, a 31-year-old Chicago resident. "It's just tradition, like American comfort food."

Ok, now I had my fair share of Big Macs back in high school. However, "heaven" is far from a descriptor I would have ever used. Regardless, Americans (and others worldwide now) have been consuming the Big Mac for 40 years. There's no turning back now. Of course, you could be like this guy who has eaten nearly 20,000 Big Macs, one everyday for 30 years except for 8 days, and who was featured in Morgan Spurlock's film Super Size Me. At least he does avoid the fries most of the time...they are the real killers.

The Tools of the Trade

I'm always on the lookout for new, healthful sauces to use in my cooking to spice things up a bit. Aside from the list of usual herbs and spices, which I use lots of (not only for their taste, but also for the nutritional benefits), I make use of several premade sauces that make cooking much quicker and much tastier.

One of my favorites is El Pato mexican tomato sauce. This is tomato sauce with a kick and goes well with pretty much everything. It's not overly spicy, assuming you don't have a sensitive tongue. It works well on spaghetti squash for a nice "spaghetti" fill in and can also be added to your regular pasta sauce. Last week, I sauteed some squash and zucchini and then simmered it in El Pato and chowed down. The Duck is good stuff.

Since I'm a big fan of Mexican food, I like to make sure I have some different sauces on hand. I have been using the Ranchero Red and Viva Verde sauces made by Abuelita Villarreal, but at Whole Foods this past weekend, they were out, so I had to seek out something else. I can across these Frontera Mexican sauces and picked up the Chipotle Garlic sauce. I had it a few nights ago and it is awesome; lower price and more quantity than the Abuelita sauces too, although it isn't as flavorful. Eggs, chicken, and any other protein all do well with these sauces.

I use coconut milk pretty religiously, probably 2-3 cans a week. It is a great source of high quality saturated fats and works for cooking pseudo-Indian or Thai dishes (especially when combined with the chili sauce below). Lately I've been eating a lot of berries and melons, so I'll just fill up a bowl with fruit, cover it with coconut milk and top with cinnamon. Chaokoh is a good brand if you can find cans that don't look like they were used for badminton and I've recently made the switch to Whole Foods 365 brand. It's $.10 more, but it's organic and doesn't contain the sodium metabisulfite.

For a good dose of heat, try the Sambal Oelek crushed chili sauce from Huy Fong foods. The chili garlic sauce and Sriracha are also great, although the Sriracha has a small bit of sugar. I like to saute an onion in palm oil, then add some broccoli and cover to steam the broccoli and near the end of cooking add some chili sauce and garlic. This stuff will give your food some serious spice so use sparingly until you figure out your tolerance.

We all have days when vegetables just don't quite zing our tastebuds. For those days, I keep some wheat-free tamari nearby. It's basically soy sauce with no wheat, although I find the flavor to be a touch stronger. Make sure it actually says "wheat-free" on the front of the bottle, because although tamari is technically supposed to be wheat-free, some brands aren't. I also look for reduced sodium.

And then there is Joyva tahini (ground sesame seeds). I only use this for making salad dressings, but it can also be used to make hummus. For a nice salad dressing, try equal parts tahini and olive oil, with some ginger, curry powder, and pepper (hat tip to Robb Wolf). The tahini really makes it stick to the vegetables.

As I said, I'm always on the lookout for new sauces, so if you have any that you enjoy, tell me about them in the comments.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Food - America's Foe

A few days ago, Robb Wolf wrote a post about breakfast. In this post, he had one line that stood out for several reasons, not the least of which is that it's in bold and all caps. This line was: "FOOD IS NOT YOUR FRIEND, YOUR SOUL MATE OR THE ANSWER TO YOUR PROBLEMS." I've been thinking about this line a bit since reading his post. Now I know where he was going with this line of thought. Many people turn to food when they are sad or stressed or just plain having a bad day. He's saying to stop expecting food to make your life better, especially since the foods we turn to during these times rarely resemble a spinach and salmon salad. He's saying that Haagen-Dazs isn't going to fix whatever is driving you to need Haagen-Dazs. And I completely agree with him when we're talking about unhealthful foods.

Now I want to look at this quote from the opposite line of thinking. Maybe the problem in America is that we don't treat food as our friend nor as the answer to our (health) problems. In America, we have a very clear love-hate relationship with food. We love eating. We love eating a lot, and we love eating junk food, but we treat food as an adversary, a guilty pleasure, always something to be denied, denied, denied. We battle food for supremacy over our waistlines. And when we can no longer deny ourselves, we turn to foods that make us feel worse about ourselves. We think "My life sucks. I'll just have this bag of cookies and that'll make me feel better," and then an hour later, we're coming down from the sugar rush, cursing ourselves for being weak-willed and indulging, and life still sucks. Maybe it's America's Puritanical roots that force us to think any food that is remotely satisfying is "bad" and only the most bland, tasteless cardboard is "good". We have to make sure nary a gram of fat crosses our lips lest our food actually taste good and satisfy our desires.

What I propose is to start looking at food as your friend. You wouldn't keep friends that make you feel bad about yourself and constantly run you down, so why allow food to do so? Friends should make you feel good. They tell you that you're good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you. If your friends said "Hey Stupid! There's no way you'll get that promotion. You're just not good enough," they wouldn't be your friends for long. We (hopefully) surround ourselves with people that build us up, not with those that tear us down. We should do the same with our nutrition plans. Why do all of our celebrations revolve around the absolute worst food available? Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Christmas, the list goes on. All of our holidays are bread and sugar fests and then the sleepy feeling after eating is blamed on the turkey, the so-called "Tryptophan Coma", as if the mashed potatoes, rolls, candied yams, and pumpkin pie had nothing to do with it. We should indulge in and celebrate foods that give us energy, not those that make us want to fall asleep.

Why can't food be the answer to our problems? Food is a powerful drug. It is the original drug and one that many people (and all other animals) use to great effect for staying healthy. By taking a proactive approach and indulging in the proper foods, foods that are friendly to your body, we can make foods the answer to many of our problems. A great majority of the health ills of our modern culture are driven from poor diet. In those cases, food is most certainly the answer to our problems. Instead of seeking foods that torment our bodies by causing all kinds of hormonal wackiness (which are often the very effects that make us feel good while eating them), we should proactively seek foods that set us up for a lifetime of health, vigor, and vitality. Sure, no amount of food is going to get you out of debt or get your kids off of drugs, but it may help you feel better so you can deal with the other issues you're facing. Perhaps if we alleviated our health problems with the proper foods, we would find that our other problems are easier to deal with, cookie cake not required. At the very least, clearing away health problems will give you that many fewer things to deal with.

Unfortunately, finding foods that are good to your body necessarily means declaring some foods to be "bad". Obviously there are foods that should not be eaten at all, namely trans fats, and those that should be eaten in extreme moderation, i.e., sugars and processed junk. Since we're thinking about food as our friend, let's look at it this way. Friends should support our life goals and help us further our dreams and ambitions. If we want to have a good relationship with food, we need to pick foods that keep us on track with our goals as well. Few of us have the goal of being overweight, diabetic, and generally diseased, yet many of us continually choose a diet that promotes those very things. I posted David Seaman's Dietary Pursuit of Disease, which touched on this very subject. The foods you pick clearly illustrate your life goals just as the friends you surround yourself with illustrate your life goals.

As Michael Pollan tells us in The Omnivore's Dilemma, a problem that we have in the States is that we don't really have a national cuisine. France, Greece, Italy, Russia, Japan, and India, to name a few, all have a cuisine that guides their food choices. Sure there are regional variations in spices and flavors, but all in all, you know an Italian or Greek dish when you see it, smell it, and taste it. As a young nation of immigrants from numerous nations, we've never had a single food identity. Are pizza, chicken wings, and flavorless light beer the United States' contribution to the world table? Perhaps our lack of a food identity is why we succumb to every diet fad that comes along. Is it low-fat or all-grapefruit this week? Or was it the cabbage soup diet?

So we're left to the whim of the food processing companies that tell us what we should be eating. The newest celebrity (always a beautiful person) calls out from that colorful cereal box, "Everybody who's anybody is eating these new Sugar-coated Chocolate Bombs for breakfast. You don't want your child to be a loser that doesn't have Sugar-coated Chocolate Bombs for breakfast do you? By some breach of the laws of biochemistry, this cereal will actually make your child think clearly." Did you know that there are some 30-50,000 products in a typical supermarket? That number grows yearly as food manufacturers find new ways to combine corn and soy and give us a new taste sensation that is all the rage. And it'll probably cure your Athlete's Foot too. In 2004, the food industry spent $11.65 billion on marketing while the "5-a-day" campaign for fruits and vegetables spent a paltry $9.55 million. That's roughly 1200-fold higher. Is there any wonder that we don't have any clue what to eat? We're constantly bombarded with ads for foods that are our adversaries. We increasingly down food products rather than real foods and then wonder why all of the wonder promised on the package didn't come true for us. "I'm just predestined to be overweight. It's in my genes." And with that, we turn over our responsibility for our health and the stage is set for an adversarial relationship with food.

So how do we decide what to eat? Simple. Walk into the grocery store and pick up an item you normally purchase and ask yourself, "Does this item have an ingredient list with more than one ingredient?" If the answer is yes, put it back and keep going until you find an item that doesn't have an ingredient list or a nutrition panel. You'll typically find these items in bulk foods, produce, and the butcher section. Don't forget the olive oil, bags of nuts, and eggs (these are the "one-ingredient" labels that I was referring to). Health will never come in a package that has to tell you that it's healthful. Isn't it ironic that the most health-giving of foods - the lettuce and broccoli, chicken and beef, onions and garlic, apples and oranges - aren't the ones proclaiming to cure our every ill, yet they are the only ones that will do so? Would you believe a claim on the package for an omega-3 infused, fiber- and vitamin-enriched Twinkie that tells you it's "heart-healthy" or "a good source of fiber"? Stick to the basics: meat, vegetables, nuts, fruit, and, if you exercise intensely, some starchy tubers and squashes. Those foods are your friends. Keep them close and they'll build you up and help you take care of your problems.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

This Week's Links

Here are some more good reads that I came across this week. Enjoy!

Ross Enamait gave us a new article called The Endless Search imploring us to stick to the basics and never forget that it is the individual that determines the effectiveness of a training protocol (or by extension, nutrition plan), not the protocol itself.

I found this gem on Mark Sisson's site: The Carb Pyramid. Notice the base of greens, colorful, and cruciferous vegetables. That's lettuce, spinach, broccoli and califlower, peppers, onions, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, celery, and kale, collard, mustard, and turnip greens. And plenty more vegetables that fall in that category. Round out your carb intake with some sweet potatoes and fruit depending on your activity level and maybe add in a bit of rice here and there. As Mark shows, bread and sweets are relegated to the uppermost reaches of the pyramid and there's no danger in not consuming these items at all.

Robb and Nicky discussed breakfast. I chimed in with the first comment and my thoughts on breakfast.

Dr. Eades talked about Intermittent Fasting and Inflammation. The charts at the bottom show reductions in IL-6, CRP, and Homocysteine, all markers of inflammation.

Like green tea? Here are the 9 main types of green tea from Dr. Weil's website.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Day of Vittles

I've talked several times about my IF protocol, so I thought I should give some examples of what a day of eating looks like for me. This is my menu from yesterday at about 6:30pm to today at about 6:30pm, when I started my next 24 hour fast. I'll start eating again tomorrow at 6:30pm.


Last night, I broke the fast with a bowl of canteloupe and blackberries covered in ~1/2 can of coconut milk and some cinnamon.

I ate that and then made a salad of 1/2 head of red romaine lettuce, the last of a bunch of purslane, a small cucumber, a carrot, 2 hard-boiled eggs, and 1/4 of a raw onion, along with a few almonds. The dressing was 3 tbsp of olive oil and the juice of a lime with oregano, fresh basil, and fresh-ground pepper. I forgot to take a picture of the salad before I started chowing, so here is one after a bit of eating.

The salad was eaten while my chicken thighs (*gasp* with skin) were grilling. As the chicken was finishing cooking, I sauteed the other 3/4 of the onion and the leftovers of some green beans from Sunday in a skillet with a tbsp of palm oil and some crushed chili sauce. Put it all together and this is what you get (that's 3 chicken thighs).


This morning, I got up and had some watermelon (already half-eaten in the picture above) with the other half of the can of coconut milk and then made lunch while my breakfast cooked. For breakfast, I sauteed an onion in olive oil, then cracked 4 eggs and cooked them sunny side up with the last of the basil and some garlic added at the end. Along with that, I had a can of Beech Cliff sardines and a few slices of the cucumber that went in my lunch salad.


For lunch at work today, I had a salad of 1/2 head of red romaine, a large cucumber (minus the breakfast slices), a carrot, 1 raw onion, 2 hard-boiled eggs, and 3 chicken thighs topped with 3 tbsp olive oil, 1.5 tbsp organic balsamic vinegar, oregano, basil, and pepper. Alongside that, there is a bowl of blackberries and strawberries with coconut.

Dinner Again

My last feeding today was a light dinner of 2 chicken thighs with some verde salsa and a pint of boiled Brussels sprouts with a touch of soy sauce and olive oil. I finished off the meal with some more watermelon.

The tally for 24 hours of eating is:
- 1 head of red romaine lettuce
- 2 carrots
- 2 cucumbers
- 3 onions
- A handful of green beans
- 4 bowls of fruit - blackberries, canteloupe, strawberries, and watermelon
- A bit of purslane
- 1 pint of Brussels sprouts
- Various herbs/spices - fresh and dried basil, dried oregano, cinnamon, garlic, and pepper
- 8 eggs
- 8 chicken thighs (~2 lbs counting bones)
- 1 can of coconut milk and some shredded coconut
- 1 can of sardines
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing
- Olive oil and lime juice dressing
- A few almonds

As they say, you have to watch those low-carb diets. They don't allow you to eat any vegetables at all. Actually I'm not sure that what I'm eating would really qualify as low-carb due to all the fruit, but it's late summer and I'm taking advantage of nature's bounty. I'm sure there are people out there that will look at this and say "That's not healthy! Look at all that fat and protein. And where are the grains? You have to have some whole grains. Where do you think you get fiber? Ohmigawd, coconut and palm oil....augh! Saturated fats! Chicken thighs? Dark meat is bad for you and you shouldn't eat the skin because that's where the fat is [It's also where the vitamins are]." And to those people I say "Your indoctrination is nearly complete. Keep watching the news for your nutrition information."

Of course the reality is that in 24 hours I probably consumed more vegetables and fruits than 90% of vegetarians and 99% of the general American public. The diversity of produce in one day of eating is likely higher than most people eat in a month. This diet is replete with vitamins, minerals, proper fats, plenty of protein, and a good dose of fiber.

Anybody else want to offer up a run-down of their day's eating?

Monday, August 13, 2007

My New Fasting Regimen

I wrote a month ago about my ad-lib eating/fasting regimen. Soon after that post, I changed things up. With my lack of exercise due to shoulder surgery, I cut down on my food intake since I wasn't supporting any level of exercise. Between not exercising and not eating as much, I quickly shed 12 pounds, much of which was hard-earned muscle put on from Dec-May. One problem was that I went to eating for only about 4 hours a day and was having trouble taking in enough calories to maintain my weight without resorting to sub-optimal foods, which I pretty much refuse to do (outside of an occasional treat). So I'm now doing a 24-on/24-off regimen. I still eat everyday, but the timing of my meals is different. I have been going about 6:30pm to 6:30pm, either fasting or eating. So today I won't eat until 6:30 and what I eat will be a normal-sized meal rather than a gorge-fest of trying to ram in a day's worth of calories. Tomorrow I will have breakfast, lunch, and possibly another small meal before 6:30 hits and I shut down the eating to start fasting until 6:30 Wednesday.

I've been doing this for a couple weeks now and thus far I like it. The main benefit over my previous setup is that I don't have to gorge myself at my evening meal in an attempt to take in enough food. A lowish-carb, moderate protein, high fat diet makes it hard to really go hog wild eating because protein and fat are so satiating. The main drawback is that on Tuesdays and Thursdays ("eat" days), I have to get up early, make breakfast and lunch, and carry lunch to work with me. But it's a small price to pay to not waste away. Now that I'm back to working out with regularity (discharged from physical therapy!!), food intake is going to become more important to support recovery and fuel my activity level. I haven't really noticed any benefits in terms of performance (possibly since I haven't been working out as intensely) or mental clarity, but it is nice being able to eat without stuffing myself and knowing that I can get in plenty of high-quality calories to support my bodyweight and activity level.

Anyone else have any experience with Intermittent Fasting? I love IF, as evidenced by my two glowing posts about it. I'll give you a run-down of 24 Hours of Eating here soon.

Movie Review: Fast Food Nation

Last night, my wife wanted to watch Fast Food Nation. Having read the book a couple years ago, I figured it would be worth a watch. I was wrong! If you haven't had the displeasure of wasting two hours watching this movie, count your blessings and continue on in your life. I understand what the producers were going for. They wanted to turn a documentary into a story, but failed miserably. The story barely skims the surface of the issues that Eric Schlosser goes in-depth on in the book. The movie touches briefly on the poor and dangerous working conditions in meat packing plants, the low quality of the food turned out, and the environmental issues associated with factory farming. Unfortunately, this book was too full of information to be turned into a successful two-hour movie. In fact, had I not read the book and know the truth of the situation described in the movie, I would've thought I was just watching a fictional story, especially since the movie is staffed with actors like Bruce Willis.

Bottom line: Skip the movie, read the book.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

More Farmer's Market Goodness

Today's Farmer's Market trip cost me $39 and netted me:
3 zucchini
1 Magda squash
4 cucumbers
5 onions
1 quart of blackberries - $6
1 pint of Brussels sprouts - $3
1 canteloupe
1 watermelon - $3.25
1 bunch of basil
Kale greens
Green beans
2 dozen free-range eggs - $6
1 small bunch of colorful flowers (maybe 8 flowers) - $3

Unfortunately it's been too hot here for anyone to grow lettuce, so I had to get that conventionally grown at the grocery store. If I were to avoid the higher priced items like the blackberries that I'm really enjoying right now, I could walk out of there for a significant amount less. But I figure I am quite frugal in other areas, so spending a bit on food doesn't bother me.

More Recent Links

Here are three good articles from the past couple weeks.

Art DeVany discussed Science and Staying Young. I would say that the science Art applies to his life is largely similar to The 98% Solution. He focuses on short intense exercise sessions and eating a vitamin-packed, natural hunter-gatherer diet.

Mark Sisson brought us 8 Essential Aging Hacks.

Here is David Seaman's article on The Dietary Pursuit of Disease. He makes a valid point that present behavior is indicative of our goals for the future. If we are knowingly eating things that are damaging to the body, then we are making disease our future pursuit. We all know those people that would rather eat a chocolate bar everyday than be concerned with their health. Don't be one of them.

Friday, August 10, 2007

New Paleo Diet Newsletter

This month's Paleo Diet Newsletter is out. This month Dr. Cordain finishes what he started last month, bringing us the last 4 universal characteristics of the hunter-gatherer diet. He touches on fat intake and composition, potassium vs sodium intake, net acid loads, and vitamins and minerals. He also uses one of my favorite lines (not to say that he stole it from me) regarding enrichment and fortification of foods:

If we have to add a vitamin to a food to prevent it from causing ill health and disease, we shouldn't be eating it in the first place.

I can't get with his demonization of saturated fats and cholesterol, but it's not necessary to agree with everything he says.

Norcal Strength and Conditioning Blog

Our good buddy Robb Wolf and the lovely Nicki Violetti at Norcal Strength and Conditioning have started (or is it restarted?) their own blog. Be sure to check out Norcal S&C's blog for what I imagine will be tons of good information.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The 98% Solution

This week, on Frank Forenich's GoAnimal newsletter, he talked about The 98% Solution. Frank raises an important point. Too many people focus on the little things rather than committing themselves to the big things. I regularly read guys on the forums that ask about using creatine, protein powders, L-glutamine, and every other supplement under the sun, but most of them haven't taken the big task of getting their diet in order. They want to fix their poor diet (the big thing) with supplements (the little things).

There is a similar focus in fitness on the pretty muscles, the extremities. Most teenage and college age males want "big guns" and "HYYUGE pecs" because that's what attracts the honeys. But few of them put in the work to have a strong, powerful body with the big lifts: squats, deadlifts, overhead press, bench press, and pullups. They're stuck with 15 variations of curls and 6 different cable exercises to hit the chest. But as the saying goes, "you can't fire cannons out of a rowboat". Isolation training produces lots of sizzle, but little in the way of steak. The pretty muscles unfortunately tend to be those in the front of the body that can be easily seen in the mirror: abs, pecs, and biceps. However, the muscles in the back, shoulders, and hamstrings are just as important for overall athleticism. Sprinting requires much more input from the hamstrings than from the quadriceps. You can typically tell which guys focus on the mirror and which focus on true athleticism. The "pretty" guy will tend to have a rounded, hunched look, typical of an overemphasis on the chest with little effort to shore up the back, whereas an athlete has shoulders back and stands tall, chest open and up. This overemphasis on the chest and anterior muscles is not only nonathletic, but also results in muscle imbalances that can be injurious.

So what is the 98%? If you focus on high quality nutrition, plenty of sleep, a low stress lifestyle, and exercising the main movers of the body, you'll be one hellaciously fit person. What would I consider to be the 2%? Supplements (other than fish oil is part of "high quality nutrition"), intermittent fasting, isolation exercises, etc. If you aren't eating a diet focused on whole natural foods, getting 8 hours of sleep per night, taking fish oil, drinking plenty of water, keeping alcohol and sugar intake low, and exercising vigorously, all of the 2% in the world isn't going to help you.