Meat is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy

I made some bacon the other day, in our electric skillet. We still don’t have a stove or an oven (my preferred method for makin’ bacon) so it was my only recourse. It worked out well, though, since I ended up with an electric skillet full of hot bacon fat, a couple of potatoes and a coarse grater. That’s hashbrowns, baby.

I’ve never actually made hashbrowns from scratch, oddly enough. A friend gave me crap about that, claiming that all hashbrowns are from scratch, but that’s not true for me. I’ve tried to make them before, but always from freeze-dried or frozen. They didn’t go well. Partly because they weren’t fresh, I’m sure, but also partly because my last attempt was still when I was mildly fat-phobic. So I’d put a little oil in the pan, put in the limp, dead potatoes shavings and hope for the best. This time, I had lots of good bacon fat, and tossed in some freshly grated organic potatoes. I’d worked very hard at the gym the night before, so I felt pretty justified in treating myself to some taters. Don’t judge me.

The hashbrowns turned out amazingly well. Easily the best I’ve ever made, maybe the best I’ve ever eaten, too. There is just something intensely satisfying about cooking in animal fat. Everything just tastes amazing. So we had bacon and hashbrowns for breakfast, with some fruit to finish. It was great.

For dinner on Sunday, I made steaks. Some beautiful, giant, grassfed NY Strips from our freezer. I used our charcoal grill, the Big Green Egg. I always grill steak on there, but this is the first time I’d cooked steak on there using the plate setter to do indirect heat. I normally just get the grill as hot as it will go (with this thing, it’s north of 600º F) and just putting the steaks on for a few minutes on each side. I’ve been having trouble with the timing of it, though, since I rarely wait long enough for the steaks to reach room temp all the way through. So they end up perfect on the outside and underdone inside. Then I throw them back on the grill and they end up overdone on the outside and just right in the middle. Since I’ve been hearing more bad news about scorched meat having nasty effects on the body, I’m trying to be more conscious of that stuff. So I decided to use the indirect heat. I got the grill up to the 450-500º range and put the steaks on for 6 minutes per side. They were much less done on the outside than usual after just 3 minutes on each side with direct heat, but still weren’t properly done inside. I put them back on for another 6 minutes each side, and they turned out pretty perfectly. Still not scorched on the outside, but pink and juicy all the way through. I’m normally not a huge fan of NY Strip (I prefer ribeyes), but these were excellent. I’m sure some of that is the quality of the meat, but I’m also sure that some of it is the indirect heat. I’m going to keep experimenting, but so far I’m pretty pleased with the results. I will keep you informed of further experimentation.

What else? Not too much, really. The workout on Friday was a Bootcamp session at our gym with a friend. She does it three times a week and really enjoys it. I enjoyed this session, but it’s very much not what I’ve been training for. It’s more of a cardio beatdown than anything, and that’s not something I’ve been doing at all. It was fun, and I’m glad I did it, but I think that’s more of a “once a month or two” sort of workout for me. I’m going to keep doing my walking, my body weight stuff, maybe some more yoga, etc. Still need to get out and sprint, but I’m still crazy sore from Friday’s workout, so I’ve been slacking on that so far this week. I’m probably just being a wuss about it and would feel better if I got my legs moving. We’ll see.

Still feeling great, looking lean, sleeping well and all the rest. No complaints from me!

Okay, that’s enough about my stuff. Let’s get to some links.

How Sweet It Isn’t – A really thorough breakdown of the different sweeteners. They come down in favor of stevia and honey, which is kind of where I end up. They mention some sugar alcohols, but do make sure to mention the GI distress they can cause. So anyway, this is just another review of the sweeteners, which we’ve seen before, but I like how thoroughly this one goes through it all, and all the links within it to other sources.

Good Fats Bad Fats – A great article about the benefits and detriments of various sources of fat, with dozens of links to the evidence for all of it. This is a very well-done piece, and will be my go-to whenever anyone asks me about why saturated fat is good and why they shouldn’t be eating canola oil or whatever.

Nutritional Epidemiology: More harm Than Good? - A piece that calls into question how useful those food frequency questionnaires really are, and how much good science can be done using that sort of methodology. Good read, for sure.

That’s enough for today, I’m thinking. Enjoy the links, and thanks for reading!

Gluten Free Doesn’t Mean Paleo

I’m not saying this to you, I’m saying this to me. Because it’s easy to forget. It’s easy to get into bad habits, and let occasional treats turn into three times per week sorts of things, and then into every day things. There’s a lot I can get away with because of good genetics and a relatively active lifestyle, but it all catches up to me eventually.

So here’s the thing. I’ve been fudging things. A little 70% dark chocolate instead of the 85% I know I should be eating (Green & Black 85% is freaking amazing and is plenty sweet enough for me, I was just being lame), some ice cream, some potato chips, some brown rice pasta macaroni and cheese, etc. It was all gluten free, but it wasn’t paleo, and I wasn’t feeling as great as i know I can. I had also put on a little weight. From the 207-209 range up to 212 at my most recent high. I think some of that is actual muscle gain and some was probably water weight, but still. I like being down around 205, and working my fat ever lower and my lean mass ever higher.

So what have I done this week? I’ve started getting back on track. I eat a couple of hard boiled eggs for breakfast, usually with a little fruit and nuts. Lunch is my salads, or some chicken and broccoli or whatever. Basically, meat and veggies. You know, paleo foods. Dinners have been similar. Chicken, broccoli, spinach, etc. It’s really hard to get creative without a stove or oven. Or countertops. Yeah, it sucks. I’m so ready to have my kitchen back, you don’t even know. Anyway, I’m managing, and this morning, I was back down to 204.5! I think I was a little dehydrated, but it only took me a few days of getting back to the foods I know are good for me to get back down there. That feels pretty good. I really like knowing enough about how my body works to be able to adjust things and know they’ll work. If I go off the rails over the weekend, it’s just a few days of being good about my food again to get myself back to baseline. That’s empowering.

Also, I did a yoga class with my wife last night. It was fun and relaxing, and some of it was pretty tough. Not an intense workout or anything (it was a “Slow Flow” beginner’s class) but definitely a good time. Jenna loves yoga, and we love doing things together, so it’s nice when we can both do a workout. I’ve been meaning to get to the gym to do a class for a while, and now I think we might try to make it a habit. It’s good for her to keep the blood flowing in a non-jostling way, so yoga’s pretty ideal.

Anyway, things are going well. I want my kitchen, but I’m surviving, and I’ll have a better kitchen when all this is over so it’s totally worth it.

Okay, maybe some links?

Jelly Beans and Ice Cream – Dr. Davis hits on the same ideas I did. Just because it’s gluten free doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Also, I’ve heard of plenty of people who go gluten free and don’t lose any weight because they’re still eating a lot of refined starches. They tend to improve their health somewhat, but they’re not reaching all of their goals because gluten isn’t the only thing wrong with our modern diet.

Paleo Shepherd’s Pie – Did I post this before? I feel like I did, but not having a kitchen is making everything hazy. I want to make foods and I do not have the capability to make those foods. This is something I’ve been wanting to get right for a while. I love pot pies, shepherd’s pies and beef wrapped in pastry. I haven’t yet figured out that last one, but I’ll keep working at it. In any case, there is nothing wrong with meat and veggies and some delicious sauce all in a tidy package.

A calorie is not a calorie? - Interesting review of a recent study. The study was supposed to show one thing, but Dr. Feinman thinks it might actually be showing something else. I like where he’s going with this, and would love to see a clinical, metabolic ward trial to nail it down specifically.

That’ll do for now. Thanks for reading!

Some clarifications, and some links

I’m having a discussion about paleo and low-carb with a friend of mine on FB, and she made a few points I wanted to address here (which I’m hoping she’ll read as well, since she inspired them).

First off, I hope I haven’t implied that a person cannot be healthy on any diet other than a paleo-type diet. That hasn’t been my intention. I think different people can be healthy on many different diets. I do think that a paleo-type diet, tailored for your lifestyle, goals and health concerns is the best chance you have of achieving optimal health. Does that mean you have to eat great galloping wads of meat? Not at all. I just think that applying some paleo principles (namely food quality and nutritional density) to any diet can improve it. If you’re a vegetarian and you’re happy and healthy, more power to you. I think you’ll likely feel better on a vegetarian diet that focuses on whole, unprocessed foods rather than packaged junk. Even vegetarian junk is still junk. Make sense? Also, I don’t want anyone to think that I equate low body fat with maximized health. I think that being lean is probably better for you than being overweight, all else being equal. But I also agree that you can be thin and unhealthy, and you can be chubby and still be quite healthy. Losing fat is a great goal, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all of life. Being happy, being energetic, having good digestion, having good sleep quality, being fit enough to do all the things you want to do, being resistant to disease, being free of autoimmune conditions, all of those are fantastic goals to strive for. That’s what optimal health is about.

Okay, hopefully that clears things up on that front. I don’t want people thinking I’m saying things I don’t mean to say. I’m definitely passionate about the lifestyle I’ve chosen, but I’m trying really hard not to judge people who make different choices, especially if those choices make them happy and healthy. It’s tough, because I always think I’m all the way right about all things, and I just want people to let me help them. It’s a process.

Okay, on to another topic. I hear a lot of people say that they don’t like a paleo-type diet because it’s too restrictive. They don’t think it’s healthy to exclude grains, because you can’t just go around cutting out entire classes of food, can you? Unless you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, which most people seem to think is plenty healthy, even though you’re cutting out even larger swaths of food. But I digress. Inevitably, this turns into a claim that the best method is “Moderation in all things.” It’s an incredibly common idea, and I’m sure every one of you has heard it in some context or another.

My thought is that the idea of moderation is great for most things. You don’t want to eat 100% chocolate, but you don’t need to eat 0% chocolate, either. There’s a happy medium. Where, though, is the happy medium for smoking crack? Barebacking Haitian prostitutes? Licking strange toads? Licking toads we know well? There are a lot of things that aren’t a good idea to do even once. The other problem I have with this idea is that it contains no helpful information. How do you define moderation? Let’s take drinking alcohol as our example. Is it one glass of wine per day? Two beers? Does it depend on your size, age, overall health, gender, or anything else? Can one person be moderate drinking 3 beers with dinner, while another person would be moderate drinking half a glass of wine?

When we talk about consuming things in moderation, we’re giving a meaningless recommendation. There’s no hard and fast definition for moderation, so how do you know when you’re doing it? Is it based on how you feel? So if you drink two glasses of wine and get a little loopy but don’t get a headache, then that’s cool for you? Is it based on long-term health effects? Maybe you can drink two glasses of wine per day without being hung over, but you get maximum health benefit from just one glass per day, so one glass is your standard. You see what I’m saying? I understand the idea behind calling for moderation, but it’s a bit empty once you get past the surface.

Yes, there is a happy medium for things, but if you’re not going to give a person any indication of where that is, then you’re not helping them. We already know that there is a happy medium, we’re just searching for what is actually is for us, for each thing we consume, and for our situation at the time. And maybe it turns out that for different people, they can’t handle any amount of a given substance or activity. Celiac sufferers can’t handle wheat in moderation. Folks with a severe peanut allergy can’t do just a little bit of peanut butter. Sometimes, your happy medium is zero. Cool? Does that make sense?

Okay, there’s that. Now, for some links!

Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet – This is a fantastic intro. Lots of great info and great links. Highly recommended if you want to learn more about this whole gig and why we do it.

The Dark Side of Medical Research – Another article talking about how the current system for funding and publishing science just isn’t cutting it.

The New USDA Dietary Guidelines – An older Denise Minger piece, I’ve been meaning to post for a while. She does a great job thoroughly debunking bad science, and does a great job with this one as well. Her stuff is always long, but worth the effort to read.

More on Meat, and Links

Dr. Attia jumps into the red meat fray with this piece, which I really enjoyed. He didn’t go after this study specifically, but discussed nutritional epidemiology more generally. It’s a good read, and makes some solid points.

Robb Wolf posted a response to a Twitter question today, specifically about this report: Red Meat Halves Risk of Depression He points out to the asker that it’s still an observational study, and doesn’t prove anything, which I think is awesome of him. I respect Robb for being consistent. Even when it supports our position, observational science still isn’t proving cause and effect. Important to remember.

Cheater’s Brined Turkey Legs- This sounds awesome. Turkey legs brined in pickle juice? My wife is a pickle fiend even when she isn’t pregnant, so we always have pickles and their associated juice in the house. These will be a great way to make use of that juice rather than just tossing it.

Wheat Belly Busted – This is another interesting piece. It’s a review of Wheat Belly, which I just started reading. Sounds like Dr. Davis might be playing a little fast and loose with his interpretations of some of the studies he cites. As the reviewer writes, it’s a disservice to all of us. There are plenty of great reasons not to eat grains (especially wheat), so we don’t need to fudge the data. I don’t think this means that Dr. Davis doesn’t have anything to say on the subject. His points about the rapid, unnatural changes in the wheat plant over the past 50 years are still very valid. The problem is that he tried to carve a niche out for himself, where a niche didn’t need to be. He wanted to blame wheat specifically, and almost entirely, for the health problems we’re experiencing. That’s just not the case, but it does sell a lot of books I guess. So I’m not tossing his book, but I’ll be taking it with an even larger grain of salt than I usually do with these things. I think he’s added something to the conversation in pointing out the changes to wheat that have happened recently, and I think his ideas can be incorporated into the paleo movement as a whole.

Can that be it? Maybe so! But not quite. I wanted to bring up my stats again, since I completely neglected to do so last week. I’m currently around 210, with 14.0% body fat. That puts me at 180.6 lbs of lean mass, up from 178.4 at last check. I am personally guaranteeing that there’s some variation in there from water and all, but I feel stronger, and I look a little bigger. It’s amazing how much easier it is to see muscular gains when there isn’t so much chub on the surface. The awesome thing about all this is that my body seems to be pretty resilient. I’ve been making more than a few poor food choices, either out of convenience or just because I’ve had them around. I’m not leaning out like I want, but I’m also not gaining much fat. Maybe a touch? My calculations point to less than a pound of increased fat, but I’m willing to chalk that up to transient storage or error. I’m getting familiar enough with how my body looks and feels to be able to notice the changes when they do happen, and everything is still going my way. I’ve settled back into a lifestyle I can live with long term, and I’m really happy with my results. I’m never satisfied, so I’ll probably try to lean down more whenever the mood strikes me, but I can live with 14% body fat and a non-neurotic diet.

Okay, that’s it. Thanks for reading!

Quiet. Too quiet.

Sorry I haven’t been posting, gang. Things are still going very well (I seem to be putting on even more muscle without gaining fat) and I’m reading a ton, just haven’t had time to post much. So here’s my update. I’ve gotten through all the leftovers from my in-laws’ visit, which means I can, in theory, get back to eating a relatively lower-carb, dairy-light, meat-heavy, veggie-heavy sort of deal. So far, that hasn’t actually been the case, but today has been a great start. Breakfast was two hard boiled eggs and a handful of blueberries. Lunch is my normal salad, plus some chicken pieces for extra staying power. Dinner at this point is a mystery, but I’ll figure something out.

My workouts have gotten a little more structured lately. A friend told me about this bodyweight exercise book called Convict Conditioning. I’m still just kinda poking at it, but so far it’s really appealing to me. I’m going to make an effort to read it and start the program very soon. I’ve already been doing some of it, but I like the way he structures his progressions, and it would be nice to have an actual program rather than just fiddling around.

I’ve also gotten another indication that my cardio capacity has magically increased. I actually sprinted from my mailbox to my house with my dog (who doesn’t sprint quite as fast as I do on open ground, due to her stumpy, adorable legs) the other day and wasn’t out of breath at all. It was weird. It’s not a huge distance, but it’s maybe 100 yards or so? And I ran it, the whole way, very nearly as fast as I could. I got into the house and my breathing and heart rate were both completely normal. I’m really curious to go see what this is worth on a trail where I’m actually trying to push myself, rather than just trying to get places.

What else? Well our kitchen is in the middle of a remodel, so cooking is very challenging right now. I’m not sure how long we’ll be in this position, but it’s making it hard to make real food. We don’t have an actual oven or a stove at the moment, and won’t have a sink shortly. Definitely not the best situation for cooking at home, to say the least. We’ll survive, though. I’m anticipating more grilling, which is always a good thing.

I shaved off my beard! I hadn’t done so for a very long time (like a year and a half) and the last time I was very heavy. It was really unpleasant for everyone involved. So now that I’m lean for the first time since…ever, I wanted to see what my face looks like. So here, for your viewing pleasure, is my face:

I know, right? I’m growing it back immediately.

Also, I’ve started up a new blog, because I literally cannot stop writing blogs, it would appear. It’s called Fatherhood for Geeks, and it’s going to be a place where I can post stuff about being a new dad (I’ve got 4-8 weeks until that happens, depending on the little man’s schedule). We’re going to be keeping him as natural as possible, so I’ll also be posting product reviews for various things, as well as recipes for baby food when the time comes for that. Should be fun, and a great way for me to organize and record my experiences. I’m really excited about being a dad, so I think it should be fun to write and hopefully to read.

Speaking of which, here are some links, the first of which is related to babies.

Homemade Diaper Cream – It’s whipped coconut oil! For reals, is there anything coconut oil can’t do? I’m running out of things I don’t use it for. I’m currently using it as an oral rinse, a moisturizer and I’m going to try to shave with it. You know, when I’m over the terror of my clean-shaven face enough to want to shave again.

Paleo Mayonnaise – This is like the 6th time I’ve posted a link about paleo mayonnaise, but this time it’s actually available for purchase. If you don’t want to bother making it at home, but you still want to have mayo without soy and canola in it, this is the way to go. Unfortunately, commercially-available “olive oil mayonnaise” is usually anything but. This review explains it. And no, I still haven’t made my mayo. I don’t have a kitchen. Leave me alone.

Top 9 Things I’ve Learned From a Hippie This Year – Modg’s blog is always entertaining, and it sounds like someone’s giving her some good advice. The naturopath who poked at her arm to determine her son shouldn’t be eating wheat, soy and dairy may be a quack (I don’t have to poke anyone’s arm to tell them that), but it’s good advice anyway. A lot of the parenting stuff is really resonating with me as I try to figure out how we want to raise our son. I’m thinking we’ll be very keen on letting him play and get dirty and learn from his own experience. At least I’m hoping we will. I’m at turns insanely overprotective and mind-bogglingly permissive with our dog (who we raise pretty much as our own flesh and blood). My parenting style will be best described as “obsessive and unpredictable” I’m guessing.

How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic – A really interesting lecture that’s very reminiscent of a few others I’ve posted. If you’re big on repetition or subtle differences in information, then I’m your man.

Tom Naughton’s ORI Speech – Tom went to Washington to tell congress why the American people are trusting the establishment authorities less and looking to the internet more. Like it or not, this is definitely a trend, especially in nutrition. Tom explains it very well, of course.

How Men’s Minds Reveal the Wisdom of Women’s Bodies – This is a really interesting piece. Not sure if everything in it is true (what do I know about evolutionary psychology?) but the ideas are intriguing and worthy of investigation if nothing else.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Thanks for reading!

More bad science on the horizon

Okay, finally getting to this. It may be old news, but whatever. This is a paleo blog. Old is the new new.

You may have heard, read or seen about a study saying that red meat causes cancer, heart attacks, and who knows what all else. Basically, the news reports were saying that red meat, even unprocessed red meat, causes death. The study itself was more measured, saying that consumption of red meat is linked to increased chance of death. Here’s the study itself: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality

Now, because the paleo/low-carb community is all about the science, the big names really jumped on this immediately. Most of them recognized (and noted) that there’s a study claiming to show that red meat kills us about every 6 months, and it’s almost always the same study. Or at least it’s so similar as to be indistinguishable. So at first, I know they were hesitant to jump on it, because writing the same response to the same study over and over has to be exhausting. But they did it, because they’re troopers. I’m just going to link to all their posts, because they all do a much better, more thorough job than I can of explaining and debunking this stuff. My brief commentary will follow.

Is Red Meat Healthy? - Robb Wolf

Will Eating Red Meat Kill You? – Denise Minger

Red Meat & Mortality & The Usual Bad Science – Zoe Harcombe

Science, Pseudoscience, Nutritional Epidemiology, and Meat – Gary Taubes

Always be Skeptical of Nutrition Headlines – J. Stanton

Of all of them, I have to say I like Stanton’s the best. He absolutely eviscerates this study, and even the research it is based on. It’s not just saying “Observational studies can’t prove causality” (which is true and totally legit) he’s actually saying that this particular study was designed and executed so poorly that the information in it isn’t even valid to generate hypotheses (which observational studies would normally be good at). It’s very well done.

Those articles are kinda long, but if you like to see smart people lay the smack down on bad science (or if you want to have the information at your fingertips to debunk your Aunt Betty’s claim that your steak is killing you) they are great reads.

Honestly, there’s just nothing that I can say that isn’t already explained in those articles, or in Tom Naughton’s “Science For Smart People” which is still one of the best intros to understanding health science that I’ve found. He even talks about the Nurses’ Health Study and some previous studies linking red meat to cancer. The biggest thing to remember with all of these is the confounding variable of “Health Conscious people” that is impossible to completely adjust for. Also, the methodology of “Food Frequency Questionnaires” collected every four years (as explained in Stanton’s post) is absurd, and I think it may make the Nurses’ Health Study invalid regarding nutritional information of any sort. If you want to use data to drive hypotheses, you need to have good observations and they simply don’t have them.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention: I’ve seen a lot of paleo folks on FB and elsewhere responding to this by saying “Yeah, but that’s grainfed meat, you wouldn’t see that if it were grassfed”. This is not how we win the fight. This isn’t a good study about bad meat, it’s just a bad study and it doesn’t prove anything at all, regardless of what sort of meat people were eating. I don’t care if it’s grassy grass the grassfed grass those cows are eating, a study this badly designed would still be able to screw up the data. So don’t go that route, if you’re arguing with someone. This is just bad science, pure and simple.

Okay, that’s probably enough from me. Plenty of links, plenty of rambling. Thanks for reading!

Very quick post, mostly links

Hey guys, just found a screaming deal on Coconut oil I wanted to share with you. My friend Coral posted it on Facebook, and it’s easily the best price on coconut oil I’ve ever seen.

Use this link to get yourself a “$10 off any order of $20 or more” coupon

Add the jar of coconut oil to your cart.

Then you can apply your discount. You should get the 54-oz jar for $10.99 including shipping!

So that’s cool, obviously, but I have some more cool links for you as well. Here goes.

Paleo Solution Podcast – The latest one includes a question from yours truly (as “PaleoGeek). I feel so famous.

Wheat Belly Review – This is an anti-breast cancer blog (Are there any pro-breast cancer blogs? I can’t imagine they’d be very popular.) where the author has posted a short review of Wheat Belly. She mentions that she doesn’t have the astronomical weight loss that she expects from cutting out wheat (no mention of what her diet did contain, just that it didn’t contain wheat) but she lists a bunch of other positive results. So that’s cool. Reading this book is also what finally got one of my coworkers to take the plunge and go wheat free, though he still insists upon getting his protein from some kind of wacky sprouted grain powder stuff. I’ll keep working with him, though.

Why Paleo? – A great introductory post with a ton of links to sources from Paleo Pregnancy.

Kefir: The Not-Quite-Paleo Superfood – Chris Kresser is a really sharp dude, one I don’t know that I’ve mentioned here before. He’s an eastern medicine guy, but he gets a lot of respect from even the most sciencey of the paleo folks, so you can rest assured that he knows his stuff. His opinions are always well-researched and well-reasoned, and I’m starting to read and listen to him more often because I just like what he has to say. So anyway, here’s his post on Kefir. I’ve seen it and heard good things, but hadn’t really heard all the cool stuff it can do before. Since I’m sort of “Lacto Primal” or whatever you want to call it, I’m not afraid of a little dairy now and again. If kefir can do all this awesome stuff, it’s at least worth a try.

Okay, that’s it for now. As you can probably tell, most of my day was spent reading and listening to stuff, so i didn’t have time for a depthier post. I’ll try harder tomorrow. Thanks for reading!