Flow Charts!

I’ve been wanting to do some of these for a while now, and just decided that today is the day for them. So buckle up, it’s bout to get flowy.

Okay, first off, here’s an awesome flow chart drawn up by Robb Wolf.

Click it for a larger image. This is pretty much the answer to all your questions.

Also, here’s another couple of flow charts that are more about asking questions than answering them. I don’t think there’s any 100% consensus on this stuff yet, just some different hypotheses with varying levels of support. Hopefully we will do some science to this issue and get it figured out.

This is sort of the “accepted causation” flow of how people get the metabolic syndrome. You eat too much, don’t move enough, you put on weight because your calories in are greater than your calories out. The increased adipose tissue causes insulin resistance, which eventually blossoms into full-on diabetes, and then you are on the fast track to heart disease, cancer and strokes. Also, amputations. Sometimes people skip a step, but they’re outliers and they don’t matter. These are the skinny folks with type 2 diabetes. If excess body fat causes diabetes, why do you have skinny people with diabetes? Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.

Okay, here’s another flow:

Under this model, overconsumption of carbohydrates is what’s screwing you over in the first place. Specifically fructose, and specifically refined fructose in the form of sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup. That junk is processed in your liver and forms lipid droplets which gives you non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and bunches of other problems. If you want to know how this works, here are some great sources: Sugar: The Bitter Truth, Is Sugar Toxic?, Sugar 101 Essentially, sugar is bad, mostly because of fructose. A lot of cultures eat significant amounts of starch (which breaks down only into glucose) but not much sugar, and they don’t have obesity and diabetes problems. They also don’t have the rates of heart disease that Americans do. A healthy person, relatively lean, with good insulin sensitivity, can eat a fair amount of starch without much negative effect. In fact, if you’re a very active person, eating some starch is probably very good for you, as it repletes your glycogen stores.  For the average, overweight American looking to slim down, starch needs to be reduced, which is why you see so much success with low-carb diets and overweight people. It gives their pancreas a rest and they get to rebuild some insulin sensitivity.

So there you go. Two competing models of what causes insulin resistance, both of which with some scientific backing. The biggest confusion comes when you throw epigenetics into the mix. Epigenetics is what happens when your environment interacts with your genes. Some people are just wired up to be leaner than others, and they can stay lean even if they’re insulin resistant.  So maybe the real word we’re looking for here is “contribute” rather than “cause.” Because there are people who can eat cakes and pies and candies all day and not gain weight or develop diabetes or anything else. They’re just genetically lucky. There are some people who seem destined to be thick, no matter what they do. Some people are genetically inclined to be addicted to alcohol. Does that mean that their genes will make them alcoholics even if they never drink? Obviously not. It’s all about predisposition and how your choices interact with your genes. You do have some measure of control, you just have to determine what you can get away with before you start flipping unfortunate switches in your body.

There’s also another possibility and that is that it’s a combination of all of these things. Maybe you start eating too much sugar which starts a little bit of insulin resistance, which then starts fat to piling up on your booty. The fat then sends some hormonal signals telling your body to keep it up with the insulin resistance. Maybe? I don’t know. It seems plausible, right? Hormones are really the big culprit here. To steal an analogy from Taubes (again) your hormones are what make you grow taller, and they inspire hunger so you’ll eat enough to fuel that growth. Why should we assume that our hormones govern that growth but have nothing to do with our girth growth? It’s not like eating too much makes some people taller, right? Kids aren’t growing because they’re eating so much, they’re eating so much because they’re growing. So I think it’s silly to discount the role of hormones in weight gain. It seems like they have to have something to do with it. Since hormones control feelings of hunger and satiety, that’s as good a mechanism as any to get you to stuff your gob.

Okay, so hopefully that made sense or clarified something or made you think or all of the above.

That’s probably enough for now. I had some other ideas, but they’re best saved for another post. So there you go. Some flow charts. Fun, right? Don’t act like you don’t love it.

Maximum Nutritional Density

First thing first: Did I mention I weighed in at 210.4 lbs the other day? Because I did. And that’s 35 pounds gone. Booyah. Okay, back to your regularly scheduled rant.

So this is something I hear a lot: “What about all the nutrients that are in grains that you’re missing out on?” To that I say “Have you ever actually read…at all?” People are so programmed to believe that “healthy whole grains” are the best foundation for a good diet, that they don’t actually ever really look at the labels. Let’s do some comparisons.

Here are the rules. We’re comparing nutritional density per calorie, and we’re using fitday.com as our source. Also, we’re using whatever their definitions are for the foods. You can pretty much bank on the meats being CAFO and the plants being non-organic. So take that into account. Also, we’re only looking at the actual micronutrients for the foods, so vitamins and minerals are all that matter. If butter has more vitamin C in it than oranges (I don’t think this is the case) then it doesn’t much matter, nutrient-wise, whether the calories come from fat or carbs. I’m also going to try to use whole foods, rather than anything processed or prepared (as much as possible). We’re not comparing steak (a natural product) to vitamin-enriched whole wheat tortilla and “chreeze” quesadilla (a lab-grown horror show), because one of them is not even actually food. Make sense? Let’s roll.

Bacon vs. Brown Rice (100 calories)

Bacon (Baked) (18.5 g)/Brown Rice (91 g)

  • Vitamin A – 2.0 mcg/0.0 mcg – Winner: Bacon
  • Vitamin B6 – .065 mg/.13 mg – Winner: Brown Rice
  • Vitamin B12 – .23 mcg/0.0 mcg – Winner: Bacon
  • Vitamin C – 0 mg/0 mg – Tie
  • Vitamin D – 0 mg/0 mg – Tie
  • Vitamin E – .057 mg/.027 mg – Winner: Bacon
  • Calcium – 2.0 mg/9.2 mg – Winner: Brown Rice
  • Cholesterol – 20.4 mg/0.0 mg – Winner: Bacon?
  • Copper – .03 mg/.091 mg – Winner: Brown Rice
  • Iron – .27 mg/.38 mg – Winner: Brown Rice
  • Magnesium – 6.1 mg/38.8 mg – Winner: Brown Rice
  • Manganese – .0041 mg/.82 mg – Winner: Brown Rice
  • Niacin – 2.1 mg/1.4 mg – Winner: Bacon
  • Pant. Acid – .22 mg/.26 mg – Winner: Brown Rice
  • Phosphorous – 98.6 mg/75 mg – Winner: Bacon
  • Potassium – 104.5 mg/38.9 mg – Winner: Bacon
  • Riboflavin – .049 mg/.023 mg – Winner: Bacon
  • Selenium – 11.5 mcg/8.9 mcg – Winner: Bacon
  • Sodium – 427.4 mg/273.8 mg – Winner: Bacon?
  • Thiamin – .075 mg/.087 mg – Winner: Brown Rice
  • Zinc – .65 mg/.57 mg – Winner: Bacon

Bacon: 8 (10?)/ Brown Rice: 7

So, that’s kind of interesting, right? I’m interested. I’d better be, because I just spent far longer doing that than I anticipated. The question marks indicate where people might disagree on the winner. Those aren’t included in the total. Personally, I think cholesterol and salt are plenty fine and are important for a lot of our bodily processes, so I’m inclined to count them as wins for bacon. If you disagree, then the contest ends at 8/7. Anyway, it’s a close thing, and obviously nobody eats just bacon or just brown rice all day, but there’s a lot more nutrition in bacon than most of us realize. We’re conditioned to believe that meat is pretty much fat and protein, but that your vitamins and minerals come from veggies, fruits, and grains. That’s why they’re at the bottom of the food pyramid, right? Speaking of which, let’s compare our veggies to grains and see who packs more punch.

Broccoli vs. Whole Wheat Flour (100 calories)

Broccoli (Raw) (294 g)/Whole Wheat Flour (Raw) (29.5 g)

  • Vitamin A – 91.1 mcg/0.0 mcg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Vitamin B6 – .51 mg/.1 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Vitamin B12 – 0 mcg/0 mcg – Tie
  • Vitamin C – 262.2 mg/0 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Vitamin D – 0 mg/0 mg – Tie
  • Vitamin E – 2.3 mg/.24 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Calcium – 138.2 mg/10 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Cholesterol – 0 mg/0 mg – Tie
  • Copper – .14 mg/.11 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Iron – 2.1 mg/1.1 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Magnesium – 61.7 mg/40.7 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Manganese – .62 mg/1.1 mg – Winner: Whole Wheat Flour
  • Niacin – 1.9 mg/1.9 mg – Tie
  • Pant. Acid – 1.7 mg/.3 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Phosphorous – 194 mg/102.1 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Potassium – 929 mg/119.5 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Riboflavin – .34 mg/.063 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Selenium – 7.4 mcg/20.9 mcg – Winner: Whole Wheat Flour
  • Sodium – 97 mg/1.5 mg – Winner: Broccoli?
  • Thiamin – .21 mg/.13 mg – Winner: Broccoli
  • Zinc – 1.2 mg/.86 mg – Winner: Broccoli

Broccoli: 14 (15?)/Whole Wheat Flour: 2

Okay, that was a thorough drubbing. And in case you think I’m cherry picking my foods, feel free to go look for yourself. Meats and veggies consistently beat out grains overall on nutritional density. Probably not every comparison you can make, but in the majority of cases, you’ll see most meats and veggies beating out most grains and starches. If you look at the amounts of each food, too, you’ll notice that the more refined a grain is, the more calorically dense it is. Meats, because of the fat content, will generally have a higher caloric density than veggies, so veggies provide a lot of the bulk. Since feeling full is about a combination of what you eat and how much you eat, meat and veggies together pack a big whollop for your appetite. The fat and protein from the meat also gives the meal staying power, and has less of a spiking effect on blood sugar, so you aren’t likely to get as hungry between meals.

Just for kicks, let’s do another one, comparing animal protein to vegetable protein sources and see where that gets us.

Whole Egg vs. Tofu

Whole Egg (Raw) (69.9 g)/Tofu (Raw) (69 g)

  • Vitamin A – 97.9 mcg/5.5 mcg – Winner: Egg
  • Vitamin B6 – .1 mg/.063 mg – Winner: Egg
  • Vitamin B12 – 0.9 mcg/0 mcg – Winner: Egg
  • Vitamin C – 0 mg/0.14 mg – Winner: Tofu
  • Vitamin D – 0.61 mg/0 mg – Winner: Egg
  • Vitamin E – .68 mg/0 mg – Winner: Egg
  • Calcium – 37 mg/471.3 mg – Winner: Tofu
  • Cholesterol – 295.7 mg/0 mg – Winner: Egg?
  • Copper – .071 mg/.26 mg – Winner: Tofu
  • Iron – 1.3 mg/1.8 mg – Winner: Tofu
  • Magnesium – 8.4 mg/40 mg – Winner: Tofu
  • Manganese – .027 mg/.81 mg – Winner: Tofu
  • Niacin – .049 mg/.26 mg – Winner: Tofu
  • Pant. Acid – 1.0 mg/.092 mg – Winner: Egg
  • Phosphorous – 133.5 mg/131.1 mg – Winner: Egg
  • Potassium – 93.7 mg/163.5 mg – Winner: Tofu
  • Riboflavin – .33 mg/.07 mg – Winner: Egg
  • Selenium – 22.2 mcg/12 mcg – Winner: Egg
  • Sodium – 97.9 mg/9.7 mg – Winner: Egg?
  • Thiamin – .048 mg/.11 mg – Winner: Tofu
  • Zinc – .78 mg/1.1 mg – Winner: Tofu

Egg: 9 (11?)/Tofu: 10

Another close one, that depends on how you view cholesterol and sodium.  The cool thing for these two is that they’re almost exactly the same amount of food for 100 calories, so it’s a pretty fair match both by calories and by weight. So this one is a toss up, nutritionally. Whichever you prefer, I guess. I like my eggs, so I’m sticking with that. If tofu is your thing, it’s actually pretty nutritious, so I can’t fault it on that front.

Anything else? Oh yeah, you’ll probably want to cook some of these things.

I compared butter with margarine and they come up pretty similar as far as micronutrients go, but we all know that margarine has trans fats in it (which are universally recognized as being bad) while butter (especially grassfed) has some really great fats in it, like CLA and butyric acid. Margarine also isn’t that much lower in total calories per serving, and I think most of us prefer the taste and texture of real butter enough, that even a slightly smaller amount of it would be more satisfying than the caloric equivalent amount of margarine. So I’m going to take that as a moot point without actually writing all of it down. Butter wins, I’d say.

What do we learn from this? For one, I’ve left out some of the leaner meats, like chicken breasts and strip steak. I’ve intentionally gone with things that I eat regularly on a fat-heavy diet, and things that people might think aren’t all that nutritious (excepting broccoli, but I’ll get to that). Do I eat lean meats? Of course. I also eat bacon and butter and broccoli and eggs. If I were trying to eat a nutritious, low-fat diet, I would probably eat whole wheat flour, tofu and brown rice, too. So I’m hoping that this is a fair-ish comparison. I’m sure it isn’t, but that’s what I’m hoping for. If I had more patience, I’d do a full day’s eating in fitday under a paleo paradigm and under the USDA/AHA/ADA recommended servings and all and see what falls out. I’m pretty sure I know how it would go, but I might do that at some point just for fun.

Also, what about broccoli? The point of that is to show that it doesn’t take that much in the way of dark green veggies to completely blow the nutritional value of grains out of the water. Anyone who says you’re missing out on vitamins, minerals, fiber or anything else because you’re not eating grains can suck your spinach salad. If they want to argue that you’re missing out on the experience of eating grains, that’s a different discussion, and each person has to decide how important health is to them when weighed against enjoying certain foods. I used to love grains and starches, but I really like 35 fewer pounds of ass a whole lot more. It’s an easy choice for me, obviously. For others, maybe not so much. But if you’re interested in trying a grain-free diet, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re missing out on nutrients because of it. They’re uninformed or misinformed, and they’re trying to take you down with them.

Okay, I think that about covers it. If you start poking around, you’ll see that calorie-for-calorie, a diet that focuses on meats and veggies will beat the pants off a diet based on grains and starches in the nutritional bowl game. Plus, it tastes great and keeps you full for longer. So there you go. Winner all around. Thanks for reading!

Just another quick one

Sorry for not posting more, everyone. Work has been crazy and we’re really working hard on the house right now. Trying to get hardwood floors into all the upstairs bedrooms by this weekend, if possible! Anyway, I’m still reading a little, just not writing as much as I’d like.

Just found this site today, while reading Tabues’ newest blog post. Dr. Peter Attia’s War on Insulin

Fascinating stuff, of course, but most of it is just a slightly different version of things I’ve read before. At this point, I don’t think there’s any completely new information on the low-carb gig out there for me. Everyone just has a slightly different way of saying things, or maybe a little more depth in one area as opposed to another. I’m still enjoying all of it, though, and Peter Attia has a really great balance of clarity and depth.

So, read a few of these when you have a chance:

About Me

Sugar 101

How Can I Lose Weight?

Also, check out the videos here. Very cool stuff, explained clearly for the layman, but without dumbing down.

I’m trying very hard to start digging into the more technical side of all of this stuff, and people like Dr. Attia are helping a great deal. I don’t have a background in science or biology, and a lot of the nitty gritty just makes my eyes glaze over. I’m trying to learn it, though, because I think knowing how these things work makes it easy to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing. There’s also just so much great science being done on all of these issues. There are studies being done right now to see how a ketogenic diet can help with alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and the rest. Not just anecdotal evidence anymore, but actual clinical trials. Someday soon, maybe a low-carb diet will be a viable, recognized prescription for these problems like it already is for epilepsy. We’re also seeing that a grain-free, dairy-free diet is becoming more of a standard treatment for autism. How much longer before we start realizing that these diets are beneficial for everyone, and the positive effects are just more visible in folks with these issues, not necessarily only effective for them? I’m hoping not much longer. I’ll keep reading and writing and trying to spread the good word.

A couple posts I have in mind: Fructose is the devil, Flow Chart of Metabolic Derangement, Paleo/Low-Carb Breakfasts

Hopefully soon, everyone!

Quick Post

Hey folks! Busy day today so I won’t have time to write up the post I had planned, but I still wanted to leave you with some goodies.

First, I weighed in yesterday and came in at 212.0 lbs. Woot! Finally got my carbs back in line after the holidays and the weight started coming off again. I’m still getting tons of comments about how thin and young I’m looking these days, which are intensely motivating to a guy like me (this machine runs on praise). I’m also noticing that I look and feel positively ludicrous in many of my old clothes. Not just “This is a little loose,” but “This looks like it wasn’t purchased for me, but rather maybe someone with Kuato hanging out in their torsonic region.” Thankfully, I’ve managed to find enough new pants I like that I can get away with wearing fat pants only once or twice a week. They’re silly, but a man does what he must. Also, I’ve been doing my very low-intensity body weight exercises a lot more regularly of late, and even swung my kettlbell yesterday. I’m very much feeling it in my thighs today, which makes me want to keep doing it at least once or twice a week. I’ve cleared enough space on my side of the garage to go in there in the morning and pound out something intense in just a few minutes in the morning. Once we get even more cleared, I’m putting the rowing machine in there and then ya’ll better watch out. I really enjoy rowing, our house just never really allowed for the machine to have a permanent home so I haven’t been able to do very much.

Okay, now for the goodies.

Sprouts Gluten Free Jubilee – Sprouts, one of the natural food groceries we have in CO, is having a special sale on all their gluten-free products. 25% off all of it! Awesome, right? Also, they have a really fantastic gluten-free guide that is very much worth reading and keeping for future reference. Definitely check them out.

Also, this is an article I read yesterday by my boy Taubes (we’re on a last-name basis now): Is Sugar Toxic? It’s pretty long and dense, and it starts out referencing a talk called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” by Robert Lustig, MD which I know I’ve linked here before (I found a short version that I also really like if you don’t have a spare 90 minutes: Sugar: The Bitter Truth – Short Version). It’s a great talk on its own, but Taubes expands and provides context that is really compelling (even more compelling than the original video which was got my my wife and I off of soda a few years back). Anyway, I want to talk a lot more about this, because I think it’s really fantastic information, and I don’t think enough attention is being paid to the conclusions that can be drawn from it. Nothing is set in stone, of course, and more research is always good, but this seems like more of a revolutionary proposal than I think people realize. I could be all the way wrong on it, but I’ll at least lay out what I think and try to provide support so you can decide for yourselves. It’s looking to be a big post, so it may have to be tomorrow or even next week. I’ve got big plans, but not plans within plans because I’m not some filthy Harkonnen.

More Taubes, because I’m a total fanboy (Robb Wolf, Tom Naughton, Mark Sisson, now Taubes, too? I’m like a fanboy slut.). This is a really interesting interview, wherein Taubes recommends 5 books on nutrition. Fascinating stuff. Read through to the end, because he explains the Japanese diet in a way that I think makes a lot of sense. It’s actually where I found the link to the other article of his I linked above, and it’s one that really makes a lot of sense to me. Also very cool is that the woman interviewing Taubes agrees to try an Atkins-style diet, and is blogging her results here: In Which I Follow Gary Taubes’ Atkins-style Diet She’s already having success, but her experiences in the early stages will probably mirror those of many people trying a low-carb diet for the first time.

Okay, that should keep you busy for a while. Enjoy! (P.S. Only in my world is a 700-word entry ‘just a quick post.’ I swear, it’s like I have a disease.)

Our very first hard-hitting journalistic exposé!

Or the opposite of that. Whichever is easier for me, really.

So last night, I ran through King Soopers to pick up some eggs. I think I mentioned before that they have some pastured dairy there, but couldn’t remember the brand. I looked again and it’s called Simple Truth. They also have the same brand available for several types of eggs, all labeled as being cage free and organic. I hadn’t seen it before, so I was curious. They say their milk is pastured, which was why I bought it. I’ve now had a chance to do a little more research, and here’s what I found out about it.

Simple Truth is the Kroger store brand, but it’s sort of their premium, natural brand. They basically consolidated a couple of store brands (Kroger is the main company, but they are behind King Soopers in CO and a bunch of others across the country) to create this one brand that will be sold in all stores with the same name and packaging. Details are here.

So what does that mean? Not a ton, actually. The list of ingredients you won’t find in items with this brand is pretty impressive and awesome, and makes me think that they’re probably a great way to go for an inexpensive organic. But what does that say about their eggs and dairy products? Not enough, in my book. They say cage free and pastured and all, but there’s no way to verify, since store brands are notoriously unwilling to disclose their sources. So, if you remember the lists I posted a while back of how various egg and dairy producers rank for humane, ethical treatment of the animals (which translates into healthier food for you, even if you’re not a big animal lover) you won’t find any great info on these. So it’s a bit of a mystery, unfortunately. I would love to support Kroger’s choice to offer these natural, organic products, but part of their responsibility with that is to be transparent enough that the conscientious consumer can get the information to make an informed decision. I’ve looked around and can’t find any information online confirming how their farms treat the animals producing these products. Are they likely better than the straight-up cheapo store brand stuff? Almost definitely. Are they better than Organic Valley? I doubt it. They’re cheaper, though, so if you’re on a super tight budget and can’t afford the Rolls-Royce of eggs (Vital Farms, in my neck of the woods) and don’t want to spring for the Cadillac (I’d put Organic Valley in this category) but you’re not happy with the Yugo (This analogy is falling apart faster than I can write it) then maybe they’re a good option. I’m especially curious about their dairy being actually pastured, because that would be awesome. Organic doesn’t always mean pastured, and to me, that’s kind of the gold standard of cow treatment. If they really are sourcing milk from pastured cows, then I’ll happily buy it to support them, because that’s awesome. Just not sure how to confirm it, unfortunately. I’ll keep poking and if I find anything, I’ll post it here.

Thanks for reading!

Even more links and a re-hash of a previous recipe

I spent most of the day yesterday chasing links down the rabbit hole and finding more articles and videos and websites that I really wanted to share. So here’s what I found.

The Low-Carb Megathread – Read this. It’s awesome.

Cook Like Your Grandmother - Haven’t tried these yet, but they sound pretty great. I’ll definitely be making some of these recipes, especially this one: No Crust Pizza

Exposing the Cholesterol Myth – Learn how cholesterol actually works, so you don’t worry about eating eggs.

The Battle of the Diets – Someone actually compares a number of popular diets as lived by a bunch of people over the course of a year. Low-carb Atkins (not even as low carb as Atkins suggests) produced better or equal results as any of the others. Very interesting stuff. If you’re coming at it from a Paleo perspective, there’s so much here that you’ll just want to holler at him about, but still, he did an interesting study and reported it honestly. You may recognize him from “Science for Smart People” as the vegetarian Tom mentions as being a good scientist.

How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic – Another scientific history of nutrition, with a lot of great detail and science. You’ll recognize a lot of the same history that you saw in Fat Head and other places, but there’s much more depth here, and it goes back much farther.

In the Face of Contradictory Evidence – A point-by-point refutation of the USDA’s recommended diet.

Pancreatic Cancer, Processed Meat and a Load of Bologna – If you’ve been seeing the headline that bacon and sausage increase your risk of pancreatic cancer by almost 20%, you need to read this. There’s a lot of bad science out there, and even more bad science reporting.

Okay, that’s more than enough to keep you busy for now. Last night, I re-made my Zuppa Toscana, and (as promised) I actually took pictures of the process. So here’s another run through the recipe, this time with visual aids. I’ll try to keep it short, but you know how I get.

Start with some sausage. I’m really loving this Beeler’s stuff, so we got more and used it again. You want a pound of sausage, and if you’re using links you’ll need to slice the casing and peel it off. It’s super easy, so don’t go nuts trying to find bulk sausage.

I actually shook a little red pepper into the mix this time, but didn’t really notice a difference. I’m a little tempted to try it with some spicier sausage next time, just to give it a bit more kick. It’s very good, but I’d like a little more presence to it in a perfect world.

Cook it over medium high heat until it gets all brown. This will take a little while, so you can prep the next step while it’s working.

Bacon, and lots of it. I think the original recipe called for 4 strips, but this is 7, because that’s what I had in my fridge. And BACON. Cut it into pieces maybe 1/2″ wide. Smaller is better, but I’m not super patient with a knife so I leave mine pretty big.

Once your sausage is browned, put it into a different bowl, to be saved for later. Lower the heat to medium and put in the bacon. You want to cook it until it’s crispy, which can take a while. In the meantime, let’s get working on the next step.

I got my new super slicer and busted it out to cut up my onions. It’s badass, and as I get a better feel for it i think I’ll be able to do a ton with it. It got me very consistent slices of onion in no time flat. I’m super pleased already, and I’m still a noob. Anyway, I cut up about half an onion. If you like onions a lot, you could do a full one and I think the soup would still taste great. I may add more next time.

Just a couple little garlic chunks. I tried to cut these up really finely with the knife and it was a bit of a failure. My knife skills are just very limited, especially when trying to cut consistently on small bits. Anyway, it worked out just fine. Just get them pretty small and put them with your onions.

When your bacon gets crispy, add the onions and garlic. Cook them until the onions get soft and translucent. While that’s going, try very hard not to go into a “Damn, that smells amazing” trance, and you can prep the last few things you need.

Cut up your potatoes. I used four small-ish potatoes this time, and it was a good amount. I used my super slicer again to get nice, consistent slices, then broke them into quarters with the knife. Booyah.

Get some stock. I use two of these containers, and it’s great. Once your onions are cooked, you can add the stock and bring all of it to a boil on high heat. Once it’s boiling, you can add the potatoes and continue boiling at high or medium high. You want those to cook through, which can take some time. The smaller your chunks, the less time it’ll take. While that’s boiling, prep your kale.

Just rinse it off in the sink, then tear it into smallish chunks. Again, don’t put anything in your soup that’s bigger than what you would want to manage with a spoon. I used more kale this time, because it’s tasty and healthy and so hard to find anything else to do with. So I used maybe half a bunch (still don’t like that unit of measure) torn into small pieces.

When your potatoes are done, pour the cooked sausage and 8 oz of this magic bovine nectar into the pot.

That’s the ticket. Now, stir it up and let it warm up again. The sausage will have gone a bit tepid and the cream came out of the fridge, and you want the whole thing back to warmness.

Once that happens, add your kale and stir it in.

That’s a lot of kale, but as it soaks and cooks it gets a lot less dominant.

Take the pot off the heat, put the lid on, and let it sit for 15 minutes or so. That will give the kale time to soak and soften, which will make the whole thing much better. Now, ladle some up into a bowl and top with some shredded parmesan or whatever.

That’s it exactly. Now try not to eat the entire giant batch in one sitting.

Repeat once a week or however long it takes you to get through a batch. This is seriously good soup. Hearty, meaty, delicious, and it just gets better as leftovers. It’s like the perfect food. I’m not even super worried about the potatoes in it. If you wanted, you could skin them first and avoid the potentially irritating stuff, but I haven’t had any problems with it whatsoever. Not saying I’m going to be making potatoes a cornerstone of my diet, but they’re not the devil if you do them in reasonable quantities.

Okay, that’s it. Thanks for reading!

More links, and a recipe!

Hey guys! Well I had a busy weekend. Made my famous gluten-free lasagna again (recipe to follow) and did a lot of work on the house. I had a little time to read a bit more in Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes and it’s still just great. It follows the video very closely, which is to be expected, but it offers that reflective quality that keeps me reading nonfiction.

So, what else? Well, I have some cool links for you. I don’t know if you Facebook, but if you do there’s a lot of cool stuff on there. I like it because you get a couple cool links or videos or articles or recipes or whatever just popping up on your feed all day. I could go find them, for sure, but it’s often stuff I wouldn’t have looked for but find interesting anyway.

The Wahls Foundation – This is Dr. Wahls’ Facebook page. She posts some of her videos, and lots of other good stuff. She also has a Youtube channel with a bunch of short videos that have great quick tips.

The Weston A Price Foundation – Weston A. Price was a dentist who traveled the world in the early 20th century and made observations about how various cultures ate and what effects diet had on health. Fascinating stuff, for sure. They’re a great resource these days for recipes, articles, etc. You may recognize the name from Fat Head, which is where I first heard of them. They have an introductory brochure that has a ton of great info in it, and tons of other resources. This is their FB page: WAPF

Denver’s Diet Doctor – If you’re in Denver, this is a great resource. I haven’t actually been to him for a visit yet, but that’s because I’m a big slacker. I’ll be calling to make an appointment shortly. Dr. Gerber is low-carb/paleo friendly and prefers to prevent disease using quality nutrition and lifestyle choices rather than medication. That’s exactly what I want in a doc, personally. His FB feed has great links to other Denver resources, which is how I’ve found some others that I’m liking. This is his main website: Denver’s Diet Doctor

Low Carb Doctors – Great resource if you’re looking for a doctor who is friendly to your low-carb lifestyle! There’s another site called the Paleo Physicians Network, but there aren’t all that many people on there, especially in the Denver area.

Against the Grain Nutrition -Another resource for information on going grain free, whether you have diagnosed celiac disease or just don’t want to eat grains because they make you feel gross.

US Wellness Meats – Good online source for grassfed meats. I haven’t shopped with them yet, but I definitely will be doing so.

Also, this blog post (Food is for Fuel) led me to this article (The Low-Carb Megathread) which is what initially got him to try a low-carb diet. There is a ton of information in there, with a lot of links to great scientific papers, videos, articles, etc. It’s a hell of a primer and a resource, so I recommend it very highly. I’m still reading through, as it’s long, but it’s already clarifying and expanding a lot of things for me. Great stuff!

That should keep you all busy for now, hopefully. Now, for the lasagna recipe. Keep in mind that this isn’t paleo by any stretch, it’s just gluten free. It’s got rice, nightshades and loads of dairy in it. I wouldn’t eat it every day, but it makes for a fantastic meal you can make to share with your non-paleo friends that everyone can enjoy with minimal upset.To make it more paleo you could use zucchini slices or other substitutes for the noodles, but I haven’t actually tried that so I can’t speak to how it’ll turn out.

Time to get everything together. First, this is a very layery lasagna, so you’ll need an appropriate dish. I have a glass baking dish that’s maybe 9×9 and 3-4″ deep, with a glass lid. It’s perfect, but it took some work to find it. If you’re using a wider, shallower dish, you’ll have to use fewer layers. Po you.

For noodles, I like Tinkyada’s brown rice lasagna noodles. They’ve got  good texture, and taste just like wheat-ful lasagna noodles. I also like a couple of different marinara sauces. Barilla’s is great, but can be hard to find. Costco also has a basic marinara that’s pretty good. You’ll also want some ricotta (8 oz) and some mozzarella (16 oz). You need one egg, a pound of ground beef or bulk sausage and some pepperoni slices. The more organic stuff you can get, the better. You can find humanely-raised pepperoni at Vitamin Cottage or Whole Foods pretty easily, and you can also find good quality cheese there. I found some fresh mozzarella at Costco, too. I don’t think it’s pastured, but it’s certainly higher quality than what I’d get at King Soopers. It also costs a lot less, because you have to grate it yourself and grating mozzarella is a giant pain in the ass. I did it, and the lasagna was delicious, but I think I need to chill my cheese before grating. Wobbly doesn’t make for easy grating. You may also want some parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top of the lasagna, if that’s your thing.

Okay, first, get to boiling the noodles. Salt the water, but don’t put oil in it. Oiling your noodles will make you go blind.

At the same time, take your meat and put it into a sauce pan with a lid. You just want to break it up and brown it. I usually hit it with some garlic salt at this point, too.

Now that those things are rolling, mix 8 oz of ricotta with 8 oz of shredded mozzarella and one egg. Just stir it up real good. Grate the other half of your mozzarella into a bowl for later. Take your pepperonis, and get them ready, if necessary. I use about 10 of the deli-sized slices cut into quarters, but you can use the smaller ones, too.

Open up one of the jars of sauce (You’re using sauce in jars, right? Because if you’re making sauce from scratch this blog is too remedial for you.) and pour half of it into the now-brown ground beef, then turn the heat to low or warm and put the lid on. That will just sit for a little.

Preheat your oven to 375º.

Pour like half of the remaining sauce into the bottom of the dish before you lay down your first layer of noodles. You can do more, but you just want enough down there to soak into the bottom noodles and give them some flavor. Okay, now put down your first layer of noodles. Chances are good that they’re not going to fit, because they’re too long. You can cut off about 1/3 of the noodle and use the two pieces to make one full stretch on each layer. That’s what i do with my dish anyway, and it works well. Okay, so now you have the base laid out. Put down about half of your cheese mixture, and spread it out. Then put a layer of pepperoni on top of it. More noodles. Now half of your ground beef/sauce mixture. More noodles. More cheese/pepperoni. Noodles. Beef. Noodles. Now, you top the whole thing with the remaining sauce and then spread the rest of your shredded mozzarella on top. Cool? You should have an intensely layery lasagna with tons of goodness in it.

Cover it with foil and put into the oven for 30 minutes. Take the foil off and cook for another 15 minutes. Take it out and let it sit for 10-15 minutes so everything can set up a bit. Cut into pieces (Yeah, right. Serve this beast in bowls, because it’s messy) and serve with a side of Lactaid tablets for the people who are afflicted. It’s a lot of cheese, for sure. Using pastured and raw cheeses will help with that a great deal, in my experience, but probably won’t solve the issue entirely, depending on your lactose tolerance.

There you go. Enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

What comes between before and after? This right here.

Not sure if I’d posted this before, but here’s probably the best picture I have of me in my “Before” state.

This is late August, before a 5K mud run I did called the Warrior Dash. It was fun, but I was carrying a lot of extra weight. I’d gotten into pretty good shape by the end of June (for the Tough Mudder), but just a few months of laying around the house and eating like Hedonism-Bot really took a toll. This is about where I was when I started. I’d guess I was in the 240-245 range here, and I eventually got up between 245 and 250 before I started my whole paleo gig.

I’d been meaning to take pictures of my weight loss progress throughout the whole deal, but I didn’t. I’m a slacker, what can I say? So anyway, I finally got my wife to take a picture of me in some of my old pants. I had some pants that were loose on me even at 250, but I didn’t want to wear those for this shot, because while that would look more impressive, it would be cheating. I picked a pair that used to fit me very well, and you can see how they look now.

That’s about 4 or 5 inches off my waist and over 30 pounds total since I switched to a primarily paleo diet. Like I’ve mentioned many times, I’m far from perfect with my eating. I ate half a cheesecake over a period of 3 days. Dinner last night was a couple strips of bacon, followed by corn chips dipped in chipotle salsa mixed with cream cheese. It was delicious, but obviously not the best thing for me. I still eat more coconut milk ice cream than I probably should, and there is never less than one dark chocolate bar in my desk at work. These things are undoubtedly slowing me down, but they’re not enough to stop me by a long shot.

Anyway, this isn’t a before and after thing. This is a before and during thing. Because I’m not done. Not even close. I still have another 10-15 pounds of fat to lose and a lot more muscle to gain before I’ll be satisfied and want to move into a maintenance phase.

I also noticed something yesterday that I thought was worth mentioning. I ate three sausage links and two hard boiled eggs for breakfast. It was delicious and extremely filling. So here’s the nutritional breakdown:

Niman Ranch apple cinnamon sausage links – 3 links

  • Calories – 225
  • Total Fat – 18g
  • Saturated Fat – 6.75g
  • Total Carbohydrates – 0g
  • Protein – 15g

Organic Valley Omega-3 eggs – 2 eggs

  • Calories -120
  • Total Fat -8g
  • Saturated Fat -3g
  • Total Carbohydrates -1g
  • Protein -12g

So there you go. About 350 calories, 26g of fat, 27g of protein, and almost no carbs. And that kept me full from about 9AM until almost 3PM when I finally realized I should probably eat lunch. I didn’t snack at all during that time, either. If I don’t eat enough for breakfast, I’ll often find myself digging for a Trio bar or a few handfuls of pistachios or something. That stuff doesn’t really fill me up all the way, though. I just keep eating small amounts over and over again, not really getting satisfied, but racking up the calories. Does that sound like eating a lot of carb-heavy meals and snacks throughout the day? Let’s do a quick comparison.

Post Grape Nuts – 1/2 cup cereal with 1/2 cup Skim Milk

  • Calories – 240
  • Total Fat -1g
  • Saturated Fat – 0g
  • Total Carbohydrates – 54g
  • Sugars – 10g
  • Protein – 10g

That’s not a lot of food, and it’s almost all starch and sugar, which means you’re going to burn through it and need a snack shortly or suffer the blood sugar crash. Besides, who the heck actually only eats half a cup of cereal and half a cup of milk? That’s absurd. When I was weighing and measuring, I would use a very normal-sized bowl and it was routinely 2-3 servings worth of cereal to fill it, and at least a cup of milk or more to get a reasonable amount in the mix. You’re getting into the 750+ calorie range pretty quickly, especially with some of the more sugary cereals. Even with that many calories, you’re still not going to feel full for very long, though. So then on top of eating more calories to feel full the first time, you’re also going to be eating more between meals. That just seems like an obvious way to eat way more calories during the day. You can’t help but put on weight. So, I’m not advocating that you start counting calories of course, but start paying attention at least to how much it takes to fill you up with various foods. I used to be able to sit down and eat a 3-4 cup bowl of rice with a couple tablespoons of margarine on top. That’s gross, clearly, but it’s also a load of calories that just won’t stick with you. Don’t even get me started on soda and frou-frou coffee drinks, either. That doesn’t fill you up at all, in fact there are studies showing that sugary drinks may even make you more hungry, so not only do you get the calories you’re drinking, but you eat more food in addition to that. Is it any wonder we’re all a whole lot more like the before picture?

Thanks for reading, guys. If you like what I’m doing, I’d really appreciate it if you’d share the blog with friends and family. I’m trying to get the word out a bit, and all the new folks coming to read are awesome. Thanks again!

Calories count but that doesn’t mean you need to count them

This is a bit of a confusing topic for most people. You know, of course, that I’m not counting calories, and yet I’m losing weight by the bushel. So does that mean that calories don’t matter? Clearly not. Science! says that energy is neither created nor destroyed, and since calories are a measure of energy, they have to go somewhere. I’m going to link to Gary Taubes‘ video lecture called “Why We Get Fat” here and you can watch that to hear him explain this very well, or you can continue reading to hear me explain it poorly, but probably with more Battlestar Galactica references and profanity. That’s really why you come here anyway, isn’t it?

Gary Taubes – Why We Get Fat (The video cuts off before the end, but you’ll get the idea.)

For reference, I’m going to be referencing and paraphrasing Taubes, Naughton, Sisson, Wolf, Gedgaudas and probably a buttload of other big names in the field. All respect to these folks, of course. I just don’t remember what I heard where at this point, so footnotes aren’t going to be an option. Just know that none of this is my idea, this is just me filtering a ton of very good information.

So, here are our two paradigms. One is a very simple “Black Box” type scenario. Calories go into the box, calories come out of the box. If more go in than come out, the box gets chubby. Simple as can be, right? This is the most common paradigm in the fitness industry, and you’ll hear a lot of “Calories In, Calories Out” talk from them. Just restrict the calories going into the system, keep the calories going out of the system the same, and the black box gets all svelte and sexy. Alternately, you can keep the calories in the same and increase your calories out. Basically, you want a caloric deficit, and you can achieve this by altering input or output without changing the other. Your conscious mind is making the choices about how much to eat and how much to work.

The other paradigm says that calories definitely count, but that hormones are the door men, and they control how much goes in and how much comes out. Under this paradigm, just increasing your calories burned may not be enough to effect significant fat loss, if your hormones aren’t in line. Because hormones are in charge, if they see a lot of people leaving the club, they may just usher a lot more in the door to keep the dancefloor jumpin’ (you can tell precisely how many dance clubs I’ve been to). If the door guys are letting fewer people in, they may also try to make it harder for people to leave, so the party doesn’t get too…unpopulated. I am miserable at this.

Maybe I should switch to a sci-fi convention analogy instead so I don’t feel like I’m so far out of my element.

Anyway, you get the picture. One of them basically puts your conscious mind in full control of how many calories go into and come out of the system, the other suggests that maybe your pesky body has  some say in the matter. Based on the first paradigm, if you’re fat it’s because you’re weak. Too weak to go work out or too weak to resist that delicious pie.

Here’s the problem. The first paradigm is easily disproven, or at least shaken significantly. I’m pretty much stealing directly from Taubes here: In many third world countries, and in poor populations everywhere, mothers are obese and children are undernourished. The “Calories In/Calories Out” paradigm suggests that these mothers are consciously, willfully eating extra food they could be giving to their starving children. Anyone who knows a mom knows that this is violently opposed to how moms work (If you know a mom who would literally starve her children so she could eat an extra Snickers bar, rest assured that she is the exception. Most moms aren’t assholes to their kids.).

So what’s really going on here? It’s the hormones! Hormones make you feel hungry or full, they make you feel energetic or lethargic, they tell your body to store or release body fat, they tell your body when to do damn near everything. This is where the convention staff analogy comes back. In this analogy, the “bouncers” are being played by the 501st Legion, Vader’s Fist.

We’re assuming that we have a science fiction convention running, and there’s one main hall where all the tables are, with some stages set up for the panels and all that jazz. I’m going to paraphrase Taubes here again (because he’s dreamy and so right about so many things). If the hall starts to get crowded, and you ask “Why is it so crowded in here?” The dork who thinks he’s much more clever than he really is says “Because more people have entered than have left.” Yes, jackass. I know, and I’m sure your Realdoll girlfriend thinks you’re hilarious. But why? There has to be an actual reason for an increased number of people in the convention hall, right? Is #6 doing a sexy pole dance around Peter Mayhew? Is Dolph Lundgren eating a xenomorph? Something is drawing people in and keeping them here. The helpful dork reiterates, while looking at you like you’re an idiot, “A larger number of people have come into the convention hall than have left the convention hall. It has to be more crowded. People don’t just come into the hall and then apparate out or something. *Snort* You can’t apparate inside Hogwarts.” This dude, while technically correct (about the situation and about not being able to apparate inside Hogwarts), is not being helpful. That’s exactly how helpful your favorite TV diet guru is being when they tell you to just eat less than you burn. Yes, technically they’re correct. But they’re missing the whole point.

Now, add in the 501st legion as door security. Let’s say the troopers at the entrance door start telling people outside that there’s a panel about to start where George Lucas commits seppuku with a 12″ Jar-Jar Binks figurine. That’s going to get some people in that door. And let’s say that the troopers at the exit door decide to bump up security at the same time, so now they’re going through bags to check for contraband (tribbles) before people are allowed to leave. This is your Why. The hall is crowded because the guys at the door are trying to get more people in and then are keeping them from leaving. Yes, more people are coming in than are leaving. But that’s not why it’s getting crowded, that’s more how. And knowing the how isn’t very helpful for figuring out how to get the hall cleared out unless you know the why. So if you want to clear the hall, you have the guys at the entrance start telling people that it turns out they were wrong, and it’s actually going to be George Lucas doing a sexy striptease around Jar-Jar Binks, and the people heading into that hall should slow to a trickle (I’m not willing to test this theory). Then you tell the guys at the exit to worry less about tribbles and more about fire hazards and to open up those doors and let people move on out as they please. Maybe even entice them to leave with some kind of gift bag that involves sentient jelly or whatever. Geeks be easy to entice. So now, you’ve got a trickle coming in and a stream heading out and the hall starts getting a lot less crowded. Knowing the reason why it got crowded allowed you to formulate a plan to get it emptied out. You can do the same thing with your diet.

There have been studies (I’m thinking specifically of the ones referenced in Naughton and Taubes’ work) that show that insulin is the big mack daddy of these hormones. Between insulin and leptin, you can pretty well screw yourself over, or set the stage for easy weight loss. Let’s talk about insulin. There have been studies done where researchers inject mice with insulin and let them eat all they want. The mice get obese. “Jabba the Mouse” kind of obese. Then the researchers stop feeding the mice, but continue to give them the insulin injections. The mice literally starve to death without mobilizing their body fat. The insulin is so powerful, that they will break down their muscles and organs for fuel before they can feed off stored body fat in the face of insulin. Yeah. Are those mice just too lazy to get on the treadmill? They’re not eating anything at all, which means they’re not taking in more calories than they’re burning. This same thing happens to people who are insulin resistant and keep eating their high-carb/low-fat weight loss diet. You put yourself on a big blood sugar roller coaster that ends up with you feeling lethargic, hungry and fat. You have to keep stuffing your face with carbs to avoid a blood sugar crash, which is why you’re trying to eat six meals a day. Seriously, who has time for that nonsense? All the carbs spike your insulin over and over again, which causes tons of other problems in the body. Not least of which is the fact that you’re not mobilizing your stored body fat when you’re doing this whole thing. It’s bad.

You could be working out, right? Sure. But when you reduce your caloric intake too far below maintenance, your body gets busy trying to conserve energy and makes you feel more lethargic, so it’s tougher to get to the gym. Working out then bumps up other hormones that make you hungry so you’ll replace those calories you just burned. You remember when you used to “work up an appetite” when you were a kid? You’re still doing that. Many studies have shown that people who exercise will increase caloric intake and pretty much wipe out any caloric deficit. So unless you’re weighing and measuring your food and are plenty fine being hungry all the time, that won’t work. Oh and if you’re too hungry for too long, your body sees it as a stress and releases cortisol, which then releases stored liver glycogen (the blood sugar bump causes an insulin release) and starts you on the path to catabolizing your muscle. Awesome!

Sounds like you can’t win, doesn’t it? But you can win. You just have to work with these processes instead of working against them. Eat lots of veggies, protein and fat at your meals. The veggies get you your micronutrients, and the protein and fat fill you up faster and keep you full longer so you’ll eat fewer calories overall. Most people get about 25% of their total daily calories from snacking between meals. That makes it tough to get to your deficit. Remember, you still do need to get more people to leave the convention than come in, you’re just getting your troopers to start hollering helpful things to make it easier on yourself. You’re not spiking your blood sugar, which means your body finally gets a break from all the insulin and can get to work on improving sensitivity again. If you want to go work out, that’s fine. That also helps improve insulin sensitivity. You’ll probably feel more energetic than you have in years, so it’s a great time to get started. If you don’t like the idea of a super-low carb diet, eat your carbs after your workout. You put a dent in your glycogen stores with a short, intense workout, then you eat a few carbs to replenish. You’ll want to eat plenty of protein at the same time, which should help fill you up so you don’t go too crazy eating post-workout carbs.  You’ll feel full all the time, you’ll probably start sleeping better, and you’ll be losing weight. How awesome is that? And you’re not weighing food and counting calories. You’re just eating until you’re full and you’re using your body’s systems to help you  instead of fighting them.

So there you go. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing, and it works like gangbusters. Everyone I know who has actually given this sort of diet a chance, it has worked well for them. They lose fat faster than they ever thought possible, and they feel great doing it. It’s almost like it’s a natural way to go about eating and maintaining a healthy weight. Crazy, right? Thanks for reading, and please feel free to ask questions. I’m happy to share what I know or at least point you in the right direction.

“What we need is more education.”

You hear this about a lot of problems, and sometimes it’s even true. You also hear that many problems just need a few more billions thrown at them and then everything will be right as rain, but that’s almost never true. Unless your problem is “I don’t have enough robot jets in my zombie defense compound,” in which case, several billions may just solve that right up for you. Unfortunately, while that is one of my 99 problems, it isn’t the one I want to talk about today. The problem I’m here to talk about today is poor health, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, ADD, autism, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, osteoporosis…and you get the idea.

What do these things have in common? For one, according to a lot of research, they are caused in whole or in part, or at the very least exacerbated, by diet. Some of them you probably think are obviously diet-related. Some probably not so much. Let’s deal with obesity, just because it’s a risk factor for so many other issues (Note I said risk factor and not cause. The jury’s still out on whether excess adipose tissue directly causes any of these.)

So, we know what obesity is, right? Obesity is the excess accumulation of adipose tissue. How much qualifies as “excess” depends on the metric you’re using to try to scare some money out of the government, but we all know what obesity looks like. Here’s the question: Will more education solve the problem of obesity in America?

I used to say that we didn’t need more education. This was 6 months or more back, before I really started digging into this whole dietary gig. I said that people knew what to do to lose weight, they just wouldn’t do it. “It isn’t a problem of information, it’s a problem of perspiration.” I was very clever at putting together rhyming phrases that made me sound motivational or something. Anyway, what I would tell my friends (they didn’t ask, they were just polite enough to sit still while I yammered at them, wild eyed and frothing) is that everyone knows that whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low fat, fewer processed foods and more exercise is what prevents/cures obesity. Everyone knows that, because there’s already been an educational push in this country for a long time, trying to teach people what they need to know to be healthier.

But what if that isn’t the way to do it? Or more accurately, what if it isn’t the only way, or even the best way? Because that can work, but it takes a lot of discipline and motivation. Discipline and motivation are two things you normally don’t think of when you see an obese person. You see our wiry, hard-working grandparents and you think “Those people had character. They worked hard so it didn’t matter that they drank whole milk and ate butter and red meat. We’re so lazy now, and we have too many unhealthy food choices that we aren’t strong enough to resist. We’re weak, pathetic little fools turning into weak, pathetic giant fools!” Is that really what it is, though? Did we somehow breed character out of the species in the past few generations? I don’t think so. But that is very much the picture you get from listening to most of the people out there today. You just have to discipline yourself to eating less than you’d like of foods that you don’t love. Even worse are the ones who try to convince you that you really ought to enjoy an egg white omelet with bean sprouts and tofu bacon just as much as you would steak and eggs. If you were as good and moral and disciplined as they are, you’d love tofurkey slices on 57-grain bread  and topped with something called “chreeze” that is neither animal, nor vegetable nor mineral. You are fat because you’re wrong.

I say bullshit. People be people. Your ancestors weren’t that different from you. They worked hard sometimes, were lazy sometimes, joked around with their buddies, ate too much, drank too much, played too hard and all the rest. So what was the difference? I think the difference was what they were eating and drinking, in large part. They were eating locally raised, grassfed meats, for the most part. They were eating locally grown, organic vegetables. They were drinking water, milk, wine, coffee, etc. but they weren’t guzzling 44 oz of high fructose corn syrup three times a day. And they were working harder, to be sure. Not at the gym, just because life was less sedentary. They’d walk a lot more than we do, that’s for sure. And that’s good, and I think it helps with a lot of issues, but there have been plenty of studies showing that exercise is a pretty miserable method for weight loss when it isn’t combined with a good diet.

So anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, in my chair, writing a rambling blog post. That’s almost always where I am. So, since changing my mind about whether “whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low fat, fewer processed foods and more exercise” was the ultimate key to being lean and fit, now I do think education can help solve the problem of obesity in America. I just think that what most people are being taught is wrong. That’s part of what this blog is about. In my own tiny way, I’m trying to get good information out there. I’m recommending books and movies and blogs and podcasts and articles and any other form of information I can think of to anyone who will listen. I’m fighting an uphill battle, though. People don’t just think that a high fat diet is bad for them, they know it. Know it down deep in their soul like they know that fire is hot and cats are sharp. When you try to tell someone that they can eat bacon and beef and dressing on their salads and whole eggs in their omelets, they look at you like you’re not just normal crazy but “spreading peanut butter on grandma so the glitter will stick better” kinda crazy. And that’s because of the education program we’ve had running for the past 20-30 years telling people to eat a high carb, low-fat diet. Education works when it’s consistent, overwhelming and starts young.

People get this type of diet pounded into their heads early and often, and it’s always the same. Then they grow up, find out they’re getting fat, sick, and can’t imagine why. Are they just not doing it well enough? Are they the only person in the world who doesn’t have the willpower to count all the calories in the rice cakes they keep slamming all day to avoid a blood sugar crash? So then they give up, start eating whatever tastes good, and start popping pills to “fix” their health problems. Every so often they’ll get really frustrated with their body, try to count rice cakes again, hate life for a few weeks and then give up in a shower of Butterfinger crumbs. Maybe a friend has a good experience with a “Tabasco/Grapefruit Cleanse” and they try that, but you can’t maintain that long term, so eventually they’re back to pizza and tacos and Diet Coke. Maybe they get a gym membership, and go pound out an hour on the elliptical 4-5 times a week, but working out makes them hungry and they go home and have some ice cream with dinner, because they “earned it.” But the weight never really comes off quite like they want, or they go on vacation and fall off the elliptical wagon and never go back. Is this sounding like you? It’s sounding a lot like me. It’s frustrating as hell. But when you hear that the low-fat/low-calorie diet is The Way to lose weight and get healthy from everyone in a position of authority, it takes a special person to question that and go searching for alternate answers. And by special I mean “sort of an asshole.”

That’s where I come in. I’m just the asshole for the job. So hopefully, I can be the asshole leading the charge, helping people to realize that a white coat isn’t a guarantee of perfect, unbiased, big-t Truth. Not to say doctors and research scientists are bad, by any means. We need them. But their continuing education is paid for in large part by pharmaceutical companies, as is the research that isn’t funded by the USDA through various other gov’t orgs. The doctors are reading books that have to meet the standards of the AMA, which gets funding from those same pharmaceutical companies to keep everyone on the same page. Your doc isn’t a jerk. He’s teaching you the best information he knows, and a huge amount of it is exactly right and will save your life. Clearly, though, the diet they’re advocating isn’t working, so that’s when it makes sense to question the information you’re getting from the white coats. You need to educate yourself at the very least to the point where you know that questions need to be asked, and ideally to the point where you know which questions those are. Don’t be a dick to your doctor, but don’t just blindly accept it when he says that your main problem is that you don’t love rice cakes and tofu dogs enough to make them the cornerstone of your diet. It’s a fine line to walk, and it forms a precipitous path between willful ignorance and being too much of a contentious dick for anyone to care what you say, but it leads to wisdom and understanding.

That’s the path I’m on. It’s a long road for an English major, believe me. I do not have a science background, so I’m learning everything I can about nutrition, biology, chemistry, etc. It’s a slow process, but it’s a very important one. I’m still not anywhere close to where I want to be, but I’m already learning enough to start asking better questions and to understand the answers. I’m just going to keep plugging, keep expanding my knowledge, and hopefully being able to help others who are on the same path. But that’s what I think education is about. I want to learn so I can teach. That’s the education I think we need. Not another colorful geometric shape telling us to keep eating the same diet that got us where we are, but actual knowledge and understanding. It’s a tall order, but we can do it.

Enough rambling. Go out, eat some real food and enjoy your day. I’ll be here, probably plugging away at another blog because I never actually stop rambling, I just change venues. Thanks for reading.