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!

Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays

Not really. I actually had an awesome weekend. I ate all the food. We went to a Brazilian steakhouse on Thursday night, then a non-Brazilian, but still quite fancy steakhouse for lunch on Friday, then another really nice restaurant for dinner Friday night, then had our baby shower (with omelets and gluten-free pancakes prepared by our wonderful host and hostess) and then went to said hostess’ birthday dinner at another great restaurant that evening. It was epic. Seriously.

Denver has something called Denver Restaurant Week (also known as 5280 week), where a bunch of restaurants in Denver and the surrounding areas will have a special menu available for a special price. It’s $26.40 per person or $52.80 per couple. That may still sound like a fair bit of money, but these restaurants are often normally in the $40-50 per person range. Most places involve an appetizer, an entree and a dessert, sometimes with the apptizer and dessert being shared, sometimes not. It’s usually a lot of really excellent food. So it’s a screaming deal if you can get in on it. It’s also a fantastic time to try out all the fancy restaurants to see if you like them enough to pay full price for a special occasion or whatever. Anyway, it’s awesome, and since my in-laws were in town this weekend, we took full advantage.

So that was my food. It was a lot. I ate like an absolute glutton. Dionysus called and said “Hey, simmer down.” So that was nice. But I still managed not to gain 500 pounds like I probably should have. In fact, I don’t think I gained much of anything. I ate plenty of sugar (and even had some shirley temples. They’re my “I’m at a fancy restaurant and I’m gonna get nuts” drink of choice. Because I’m secretly a 7-year old girl.) but I also managed to walk a bit (took a very long walk with the dog on Sunday morning) and still did a lot of running up and down stairs and carrying things around and all. I have to say, I’m loving how resilient my body is turning out to be. I’m not going to do this all the time (obviously) but it’s nice to know I can have a weekend of excess without losing all the progress I’d made. If anything, I’m still noticing new and positive changes to my body.

I’m still constantly poking and prodding at my midsection because that just doesn’t get old, but I’ve also noticed (as has my wife) that my other muscles are also feeling harder. I think I had a fair amount of intramuscular fat the last time I put on muscle, so even when my muscles got larger, they never really felt all that firm. But now, I think I’ve gotten rid of a lot of my marbling, and my muscles feel much harder when I flex them. That’s cool. Honestly, everything is just going well, body-wise. I feel great and I’m looking pretty good, if I do say so myself. I had at least a couple people at our baby shower ask me where the rest of me was. It’s so easy to forget that just a few short months ago, I was carrying an extra 30-some pounds of dude around. That’s just so much weight, it’s hard to visualize. It’s like 150 sticks of butter. It’s like two large Thanksgiving turkeys. It’s like 2.5 bowling balls. And I was just hauling that around all the time. No wonder I felt so tired and lethargic. Life was just exhausting! Anyway, that’s that.

You may notice I don’t have a Monday weight in and all today. I decided to start doing my weigh-ins on Friday, after I’ve been doing pretty well all week, rather than on Mondays after I’ve been a slob for three days. Fair enough? So on Friday, expect an update. The last time I checked myself was Thursday night before dinner and I was at 207 lbs and 13.8% body fat. At least i think that’s what it was. It was the lowest it has ever been, I remember that. This weekend may have set me back, so I’m going to try to be extra good this week to get back on track. I’m walking, doing my bodyweight exercises and I think I’ll lift and maybe do some yoga once or twice in the evening this week.

That’s about it for my own stuff. Now for links!

Shifting opinion on healthy eating fuels feeding frenzy – I can absolutely understand where this guy is coming from. I had very much the same thoughts about diet back in the day. Every time a study showed up in the news praising or damning some food or activity, I’d wonder whether this time they really had the right of it. Since learning a lot more about biology and nutrition (still not a ton, but more than I did) I’m now a lot more comfortable partially or totally discounting these articles based on the studies they’re based on. Having a stronger foundation in scientific thinking really empowers me to feel like I don’t just have to accept this stuff as gospel anymore.

The List – This is a handy list about which fruits and vegetables are most likely to have nasty junk used on them. If your budget requires you to triage your organic purchases, this can be extremely helpful to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

JB’s Viewpoint on Paleo Desserts – This is an awesome explanation of a viewpoint on desserts that’s very similar to my own (my behavior this weekend notwithstanding). I don’t feel like I need to avoid all sugar for the rest of my life, but when possible, I like to get it in a way that’s at least partially good.

This is why we do what we do – A story from a viewer of Tom naughton’s Fat Head. This is a powerful piece, and goes to show how much damage can be done to real people by bad dietary advice. There’s so much pain in the world, and if even a little of it can be alleviated by eating right, getting some exercise, getting some sun, and sleeping, we seriously need to get on that stuff. That’s all positive all the ways, and doesn’t come with a hefty pricetag or side effects.

Onion Ring Eggs – This just looks awesome. I’m absolutely trying this.

All done for now. Thanks for reading!

Fitness Improvements

Just a quick thing before I go wandering off into the wilderness of the weekend and you don’t hear from me for a few days. I also had some links I meant to post on the last link thing but forgot to, so I’m going to add them here. And probably some others. Because links are great.

This morning, I decided to do some pushups, v-sits, squats and tricep dips, like I often do. I’m back up to the region of 30-ish pushups in a row. Not impressive, I know. One of the most frustrating things for me, fitness/strength-wise has always been my low strength-to-mass ratio. I am stronger than most people I know in an absolute sense, but that’s largely because I’m large. When it comes to manipulating my own body, I’ve always just been weak sauce. Bad at pushups, bad at pull ups, etc. So I’m trying to work on that, and losing a bunch of weight has definitely helped. I’m far from the strongest I’ve ever been, but I’m able to do much more with my body now that I’m not lifting an extra 40 pounds of dead weight. So that’s good.

Also, I attempted my very first single-leg squats (“Pistols”) this morning, and was able to get at least one or two with each leg. I tried them first while holding on to the bathroom counter for balance, but ended up doing one with each leg completely unassisted, balance-wise. That feels pretty good, as it’s something I’ve never been able to do before (even when I was much stronger, but also much heavier). I’ve been doing some weighted squats, which are probably helping my leg strength overall, so I’m definitely going to keep up with that. Same thing with bench press and pushups, I’m thinking.

I know I’ve been saying “I’m going to try to do more…” for a long time now, but I’ve actually been doing it the past few weeks. I’ve been walking more, doing my calisthenics more and lifting more. The only thing I still want to add into my regimen that I haven’t yet is sprinting. It’s warming up and after this weekend (spring forward and all that) it will also be lighter in the morning, so I think I might start hitting the trail again. Probably sprinting intervals, maybe even just once a week. Honestly, I’m thinking that doing my body weight stuff maybe 2-3 times a week, walking 4-5 times a week, lifting heavy (for me) once a week and sprinting once a week is a pretty good schedule. I’ve got a baby coming, so we’ll see how long that lasts. But I’m fully planning to strap that baby to my body and go do my walks, and I’ll probably strap him to me and do pullups and pushups, too. Because that’s adorable.

Also, I hopped on the scale and grabbed the Omron last night and it came up at 207.4 and 13.8%. That’s the lowest body fat I’ve ever seen on the Omron, which is awesome. So I really do think I’m maintaining my level of leanness, and I’m just putting on some more muscle. There’s enough variation in the Omron (and the scale, for that matter) that I’m not calling anything 100% solid, but it’s definitely looking like my fat mass is either stable or slowly decreasing, and my muscle mass is either stable or slowly increasing. Not too bad for not making a huge effort at either, I’d say. I’m not significantly changing my eating habits or being overly restrictive with anything these days, and I’m working out for an average of maybe 15 minutes a day (that’s counting the 5-10 minutes of body weight stuff I do, some days where I do nothing, and some days where I go spend 30-45 minutes in the gym). That’s a lifestyle I can live with, for sure.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Links, right? I promised links. Lots of Robb Wolf today, because Robb Wolf is awesome.

Paleo Diet, Inflammation and Metformin – A great article on how sepsis causes insulin resistance, and how a permeable gut lining may put us into a low-grade state of sepsis, which can cause our metabolic derangement. He’s not making any super solid claims here, but just sort of leaning towards a new hypothesis of the cause of metabolic problems. Yes, a low-carb paleo diet fixes the problem, but maybe the carbohydrate load isn’t causing the initial problem? The Kitavans would seem to indicate that. Anyway, it’s really interesting stuff, and is something I’ve been trying to work through in my own way for a while now. We need a model that explains why the Kitavans can be lean on 60% carbs, why people can lose giant loads of fat on a juice fast (I watched “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” a while back, and have been struggling to fit their results into my insulin-hypothesis paradigm), and all the rest. I’m going to keep reading and following all of it as best I can, and hopefully I’ll learn enough to get a handle on it eventually.

What is the paleo diet? – Robb’s breakdown of the basics. I’ve been thinking I need to revise my own definition, or at least expand it or something, and so reading this was helpful to me. It’s the dynamic and variable nature of the paleo diet that really appeals to me, and Robb goes into that here very well. Everyone always says “There’s no one diet for everyone.” I’m calling bullshit on that, right here and right now. There is one diet for everyone, it’s just not as strictly prescriptive as people are used to diets being. You start with 30 days of no grains, no legumes and no dairy, and then you tinker to find the best fit for your health and your goals. Easy. And that works for everyone. Your fat, protein and carb intakes, as well as how strict you are with your compliance are all based on your body and your goals. It’s easily tailored for everyone, and there’s a path within it to get everyone to their optimal health. It just takes a little commitment to get started, and then the results keep you on track. If my choices are between not eating wheat and gaining 40 pounds of fat, having screwed up digestion, no energy, bad sleep, and losing my hair, that’s not even really a decision.

Framework Matters – Robb really knocks this one out of the park. He references it in the other articles I linked here, which is what got me re-reading it. And maybe re-posting it. I don’t recall. But anyway, here it is. Enjoy. It might not be what you want to hear, but it’s very important for us to keep in mind. We can’t solve the problems of modern health if we aren’t all even talking about the same thing.

World-Renowned Heart Surgeon Speaks Out on What Really Causes Heart Disease – Yet another doc stepping up to say that the lipid hypothesis is bunk. This is happening so often now that it’s hard to keep up with all the stories. I hear Rush Limbaugh had someone on his show yesterday talking about the same thing. I’ve seen it in newspapers, on various health websites, TV news shows, etc. It’s really starting to turn around on us, and that’s a very good thing.

Eat Like a Predator, Not Like Prey – I’ve been enjoying this website for about a week now. I like the guy’s style, and his perspective. It’s an inspiring way to think about ourselves, and is definitely motivating to me. I haven’t read nearly as much of his stuff as I’d like to, but I’m going to keep chewing through all of it because there’s a lot of quality in there.

Okay, that’s it for now. Hope all is well with you all, and I’ll catch you on Monday. Thanks for reading!

More links!

I have a ton more links I want to bring up here, so I’ll just buzz through the normal stuff so I can get to the links.

My carb-splosion this weekend hasn’t completely gotten me over my desire for them, as my continuing desire for sweets will attest, but it’s not too bad. I think the best thing I can do is to either A) give up sweets entirely for an extended period to get my body over the desire, or B) keep good sweets around, like blueberries and whatnot. I’m leaning towards blueberries, because I love those little buggers. I’m definitely being better about some of it, so that’s something. A lot of the battle is keeping bad foods out of the house and keeping good foods in, so I have to option to do the right thing, and minimize my chances of doing the wrong one. A bowl of blueberries with a hefty dose of heavy cream and a couple drops of vanilla stevia (its makes the cream taste like melty whipped cream, without me having to do any of the dishes involved with making actual whipped cream) is seriously one of the tastiest things I can even think of. If I have that available, along with some good quality bars of dark chocolate, my cravings can be satisfied without too much straying.

Other than that, I’ve been eating pork, chicken, beef, eggs, salad, etc. Mostly all my normal stuff. Broccoli is big for me, especially since I started cooking it properly and thoroughly. I had been trying to steam it, but that wasn’t very effective using the tools I had (a bowl and a microwave), so I started sauteing in coconut oil and then topping with butter and garlic and that’s freaking amazing. As long as the broccoli is cooked thoroughly, it’s amazing. I don’t really care for the flavor or texture of raw broccoli too much, so when I cook it mostly but not all the way, that’s not ideal.

Unfortunately, I still haven’t taken the time to make my baconnaise. I really want to, and I have everything i need to make it happen, I just keep forgetting or being too busy. Lame. It will happen, though. Don’t even worry about that.

Personal progress remains solid. my scale weight seems to have leveled off or even increased slightly (I had hit a low of 204-ish and now I’m usually between 207-209). Some of this might be my carb intake, but since it’s also coinciding with my new focus on lifting, I think it’s safe to say that some of it is probably muscle. I’m still feeling very lean when I poke at my midsection, so I don’t think I’ve been packing fat on or anything. I’m also feeling very fit overall, with reduced recovery times and greater strength than I’ve had in a while. I’m honestly feeling pretty awesome in every capacity.

Okay, now for the links. Hold on to your butts.

Blast From the Past – This is easily one of the most important links I’ve ever posted here. I’m going to gush a bit so bear with me. Robb Wolf absolutely nails this presentation. It’s entertaining, accessible, concise but still thorough. It is as good an introduction to the paleo diet concept as I can point to. Specifically, he talks about how we’re not attempting historical recreation, we’re using anthropological observations as hypothesis generators, and then using clinical trials and our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of the body to really get down into the details. Importantly, he shows that a paleo diet isn’t primarily a weight loss diet. It’s a whole health diet. Yes, you can (and almost certainly will) get lean by eating this way. That’s fine. Plenty of diet/exercise plans can get you lean, if you can slog through long enough. But what Robb does so masterfully is to show that you can get lean by getting healthy, rather than getting healthy by being lean. I hope that makes sense. By eating foods that are not irritating to the gut, and aren’t full of indigestible proteins, you can heal your digestive system. Healing the gut is what cascades into healing dozens of seemingly unrelated autoimmune conditions. Healing the gut also appears to be key in normalizing leptin and insulin sensitivity, the dysregulation of which leads to metabolic syndrome. It’s a fantastic talk. Compelling, funny, well-researched and supported. It’s awesome all around.

23 1/2 Hours – This is one of those cool lectures with the drawings. If you’ve enjoyed them in the past (as I have) then you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, it’s a very interesting contention and one I find it very hard to argue with. Exercise is important for optimal human health. Our bodies thrive when we move them. A very important point is that you don’t need to grind out hours upon hours on the treadmill to gain these benefits. In fact, it sounds like 30 minutes is about where you hit your point of diminishing (health) returns. So walk for 30 minutes a day, or ride a bike, or row, or whatever floats your boat. Whatever exercise you enjoy and will do is the right one for you. Don’t feel like you need to brutalize yourself to get the health benefits of exercise. If you’re a competitive athlete and you need to maximize performance, then yeah, go ahead and brutalize yourself. But if you just want improved health and general wellness, walking 30 minutes a day is a great way to go. Your dog will love you for it, if nothing else.

The Interplay of Exercise and Ketosis, Part 1 – Dr. Attia is back, and talking about how exercise works with ketosis. He’s doing some longer, more endurance-specific stuff, but he’s also doing shorter, more intense workouts as well. It’s very interesting to see how it works, and I’m definitely going to continue following his exploration of the whole thing. However, the real reason I wanted to post this is that he posted a recipe for high-fat, sugar free ice cream. That sounds intriguing. Here it is:

We’re still working on the nuances, but the current version is composed of 3.5 cups whole fat (35% fat) cream, 1 cup of zero sugar almond milk, 1 tbsp vanilla extract, 2 tbsp almond extract, 3 tbsp ground espresso powder, and 2 tbsp xylitol. This makes enough to feed about 8 normal people, or me in one sitting. You’ll need an ice cream maker, obviously, to mix at at freezing temperatures.

Now, he’s big on ketosis, so he’s using xylitol as his sweetener. I’ve heard mixed reviews about actually consuming xylitol (as opposed to using it for dental health) so I’m a little wary about chowing down on it in any significant quantities. However, if I were to sub in some honey, some stevia, some dextrose, etc. this could be pretty viable. I say dextrose, because while it is definitely a refined, caloric sweetener, it’s pure glucose without the fructose. Since the fructose in most refined sugars seems to be the major problem, using dextrose seems like it would minimize a lot of the negative effects. It’s probably still going to spike insulin, and spiking insulin in the presence of saturated fat isn’t the best thing in the world, so maybe it’s not a good fit here. Maybe stevia is the way to go. Or heck, maybe a little more research would show me that I have nothing to fear from xylitol. Anyway, this sounds like a great low-carb treat, which definitely appeals to me.

So there you go. Lots of good links today. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!