Unrelated Things I Want to Write About

Talk about your literal blog post titles, eh? Okay, couple things.

First off, you should check out the Paleo Summit. It’s an online paleo lifestyle conference, if that makes sense. You sign up and then every day that it’s happening, you get links to some videos. I’ve been watching as much of it as I can every day, and it’s great. Tons of fantastic information from a lot of the big names in the field. There are some new people who I’ve heard about in passing, but haven’t actually listened to or read directly, and it’s neat to get their perspectives as well. I think a lot of people think of the “Paleo Movement” being a pretty consistent, dogmatic thing. That’s really not the case. Everyone has their own take on it, and there’s at least a dozen MDs and PhDs who each have very good reasons for believing what they do, and explaining why they don’t necessarily agree with the others. It’s a young movement, and a lot of things haven’t been entirely hashed out yet. I’m still learning, and the more information I get, the more I feel like I have to learn. It’s fun, and exciting, but also a little intimidating. I feel like I’ve got a pretty solid handle on the basics at this point, and on some of the reasons behind the basics. I even have a decent grip now on some of the good and bad arguments that are commonly used to advocate for or against a paleo-type diet. If you’re interested in the paleo thing, the Summit is a great way to get a lot of information in a short period.

Okay, there’s that. Also, last night, I made a new dish for the second time, and it’s awesome. It’s going to become a big staple for me, I can already tell. The funny thing is that it’s essentially taken straight out of Robb Wolf’s Paleo Food Matrix, but I didn’t realize that until after the second time I made it. Okay, here’s what I did. I took some coconut oil and melted it in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Then I added some sausage cut into small chunks. I cooked that until it started to brown a little for me. Then I added chopped broccoli, stirred everything up and put a lid on it. I left that for a few minutes, then came back to stir it around a little. I repeated that a few times, until the broccoli was bright green and cooked through. Then I added a handful of shredded cheddar cheese. Not strictly paleo, I know. Whatever. I effing love cheese, and it doesn’t make me feel sick or achy or anything else. Anyway. I put the lid back on, let the cheese melt for a bit, then stirred it around to get it mixed in. I added some salt and pepper and stirred a little more. Scoop into a bowl and eat immediately. That’s about as easy as it gets. The nice thing is that it really works with just about anything. Same method would work for bits of beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, or really just about any meat. And a lot of different veggies, too. I’m partial to broccoli, especially when paired with cheese, and I get big giant bags of it from Costco so it’s good to have ways to plow through large quantities of it. The only problem is that I keep making not quite enough of the sausage/broccoli/cheese mix. There’s enough for one serving, but it’s so good I really want to eat more of it. So since I’m still a little hungry, I end up snacking on other things. Not the best. So I think I’m going to get out my giant electric skillet and make one super huge batch, and then eat that for lunches or whatever over the next few days. I’ll also take some pictures next time.

There’s another thing that’s been kicking around in my head. Backstory first. I haven’t had a regular physical checkup since college. I haven’t really felt the need, and I didn’t have a primary care doc I was especially attached to. But when I turned 30 and had a baby on the way, I figured it was time. I’ve been doing some pretty crazy stuff the past few years, and had gained and lost quite a bit of weight at various points, so I was definitely curious about how I was holding up. Okay, end of backstory. So I needed to find a primary care doc, right? Here’s the question. Do I choose a doc at random out of the phone book, get a recommendation from friends/family, or do some research online? Secondly, do I try to find a doctor who I know will be friendly to my low-carb/paleo ideas, or do just go to a doctor and not worry about his nutritional philosophy? What I chose was to talk to my friends and look online, and I found a paleo/low-carb friendly doctor named Jeffry Gerber near Littleton Adventist Hospital (where my wife and I are having our baby). I had my physical with him, and we really got along well. It was nice to know we were coming at the issue of health from a similar paradigm, so I didn’t feel like I had to hide or be defensive about my dietary choices. It also just so happens that his office is in the same building and even on the same floor as our midwife’s office. So that’s kinda cool.

Here’s the question: Did I do the right thing in picking a doctor who agrees with me about a few fundamental health concepts? I think so, but I can definitely see the arguments on the other side, too. Did I just put myself into an echo chamber, where my doctor, who would otherwise be the voice of medical reason, will now cheer me on as I drive myself into an early grave? Am I just seeking out counsel from those who agree with me so I don’t have to ask myself the hard questions? What happens when my high fat diet inevitably gives me some sort of major health problem and my doctor refuses to admit that the fat is the problem? I was asking myself those questions before I went in, believe me. I feel like I’ve done a lot of research on this whole gig, and I feel confident that the people I’m listening to know their business. But there’s always that little voice of doubt, isn’t there? What if I’m wrong? What if it was a fluke? What if I dropped 40 pounds but put a giant hole in my heart in the process?

I think it really comes down to faith, in the end. It can be informed faith, but it’s still faith. I don’t have any formal medical training beyond First Aid/CPR, and I think my card’s expired. I don’t have a PhD in biochemistry. Heck, the only college science courses I took were Astronomy and Psychology. I probably can’t even adequately explain the Krebs cycle without looking at my notes. Any doctor I visit is going to have knowledge that far surpasses mine in a wide variety of areas, and I’m basically putting my faith in his or her training, education and experience. I’m not going to know if the recommendation he gives me is really the best thing for me. I won’t know whether it’s based on a complete understanding of my medical history, or whether the guy is just frazzled and in a hurry to get home, and he skips a key line on my chart. Maybe the prescription medicine I’m on has just recently been found to have a negative interaction with the new prescription my doctor wants to put me on? I don’t know this stuff. I’m trusting that my doctor will. I’m banking on the fact that the doctor I visit has been keeping up to date with all the relevant journals, so s/he is using the very best information to treat me, not what was written in the textbook 30 years ago.

That’s another problem. Science changes by its very nature. As new research is done, new methods are adopted, and new standards of care are established. This is a very good thing. If medical science didn’t advance, we’d still be bleeding people to cure them of syphilis. But because science advances, and because it is advanced by people, there is the possibility for error. Not just errors on the doctor/patient level, but even errors in the medical research itself. Experiments can be poorly designed, or designed with an unconscious bias. An experiment can be designed, run and published in a peer-reviewed journal and still give us erroneous conclusions. This is a great article on that subject: Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Science Do I think that medical errors are common? The statistics indicate that they’re more common than we’d like, but I don’t think most of those are serious. Do they happen? Certainly. And I don’t think that individual doctors should be crucified for making errors, either. Everyone makes mistakes and has to learn from them. Medicine is a high stakes game so the cost of a mistake can be incredibly high, but it still doesn’t mean we have to demand perfection. This is an interesting talk on the subject: Doctors Make Mistakes. Can We Talk About That?

That’s a bit of a tangent. It’s another thing that’s been kicking around in my head, so I wanted to share it, but it’s not the real point here. We all need to be aware that doctors aren’t infallible, because they’re human. That should be a given, but some people think white coats are magical. They’re not, and there’s a reason we have the phrase “Get a second opinion” in our cultural lexicon. I’m not saying this means you shouldn’t trust your doctor, though. Far from it. I think that level of dedication and education is worthy of respect, and anyone willing to go through it should get the benefit of the doubt. I’m just saying that we need to be realistic about the limitations of the medical system and the people within it.

Okay, but beyond that. Beyond the possibility for error, which we all accept when we go to a doctor (or any professional, really) for help, what if there’s more? What if the doctor is just plain wrong? What if the standard of care for your situation isn’t the best choice for you, personally? What if your total cholesterol is at 205 and your doctor wants to put you on statins to try to bring it down as a “preemptive measure”? Do you just take the drug without asking any questions? Do you seek out a second opinion? Do you seek out an opinion from an alternative medicine doc? Do you just go read up on the literature yourself, and hope you can get a good enough handle on the science to make an informed decision? Different people make different choices in that situation, and I’m not here to judge. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own health choices. Your doc is giving you the benefit of his education and experience, but you aren’t physically or legally required to take his advice. At least not in most cases. So anyway, what is your choice in this situation? For me, I’ve learned enough to know that I’m not afraid of total cholesterol being above 200. Certainly not enough to take a drug with as many nasty side effects as statins. I’d look at my HDL, my triglycerides and my LDL subfractions and see if I thought there was a real problem worth worrying about. But that’s me, obviously. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m betting my life on the work of a bunch of idiots and charlatans. Maybe I’ve put my faith in the wrong people. It’s a risk I have to take, though, because I have to put my faith in someone. I’m just doing the best I can with the intelligence and information I have. That’s really all any of us can do.

So when it comes down to it, I feel better about seeing a doctor who is on the same page with me. If there’s a benefit to seeing a doctor who is going to tell you things you know going in you’re not going to agree with, I don’t know what it might be. Maybe for someone less stubborn than me, it might give them reason to question their understanding of the situation. But for me, if my doc tells me to take the statins, I’m going to ignore his advice anyway. I may go talk to another doctor, but if he gives me the same advice, it’s still not going to change my mind. That kind of sounds crazy and extremist, but let me put it to you another way. It wasn’t all that long ago that doctors would strap laboring women down to a bed, knock them out with ether and literally pull the baby from their unconscious bodies with forceps. Parents weren’t even allowed to hold their babies until days after delivery in many cases. That was the standard practice. We figured out how horrible that was, thankfully. But if I went to a doctor now who said that he was going to do that to my wife, I would punch him in the face and then go talk to another doctor. And if that doctor said the same thing, I would punch him in the face as well and keep looking until I found a doctor who agreed with me that maybe my wife shouldn’t be strapped to a table and knocked out. Does that make me an extremist? Does that mean I have no respect for the medical profession or for the principles of science? Does it make me a bad person for denying my wife and unborn child the very pinnacle of modern medical care? I don’t think so. I think sometimes, the medical establishment gets it wrong. When that happens, I have a responsibility to myself and to my family to figure out the best option and pursue it, even if it’s not what the conventional wisdom would recommend.

I’m not alone, either. Tom Naughton and others are actually working on a presentation about the current trend in regular folks losing faith in the traditional authorities, and turning to the internet to do their own research. There’s a teaser here.

Okay, that ended up being a way longer post than I thought it would be. Sorry for rambling. I’ll wrap it up with a few quick links.

Do Calories Matter– More from Dr. Attia. He really breaks things down in a great way, as usual. There are so many obvious things that refute the over-simplistic “calories in/calories out” mentality, and he really nails them all.

PaleOMG – I’m really liking this blog, and all of her recipes look really darn good.

Enjoy Eating Saturated Fats – This is another talk given by a doctor, explaining why he has lost faith in the lipid hypothesis. These talks are becoming more and more common, but there are a few tidbits in here that I think make this one stand out from the others.

For reals now, I’m done. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!


Thoughts and Thoughts

Okay, I’m sucking at ketosis these days. I’m still working through the leftover zuppa toscana from this weekend, and I keep finding myself with a spoon in a jar of Justin’s Honey Almond Butter in the evenings. Some of it is just a natural snacking response (more reason to get my kale chips dehydrated), some of it is a reaction to some stress about the remodeling project, some of it is just not putting a high enough priority on staying low carb. It’s easy to justify eating more carbs on the weekend, since we’re usually entertaining or celebrating or something (this weekend was my wife’s birthday dinner and she and I demolished another Chocolate Thunder from Down Under at Outback). The problem is that the weekend starts on Friday evening most weeks, and doesn’t end until…Tuesday? Leftovers, you know. My wife won’t eat them and I can’t stand to waste food. So I’m starting to think about trying to do a low-carb thing during the week, and then allow myself a little more leeway on the weekend. Not sure. I’m honestly really getting very lean and gaining muscle pretty rapidly. It feels a little silly to obsess over my diet when I’ve been doing so well even with the slip-ups. So maybe my trial is over? Maybe I’ve figured out that I don’t really have the need or the desire to be in a state of ketosis every day for any length of time. Maybe I just realized that I can reach my goals without depriving myself as much as I had thought was necessary. I honestly don’t know. I’m going to continue trying to stay lower-carb, especially during the week, but not sure if I’m going to worry as much about it on the weekends. We’ll just have to see. I will let my body guide me.

There’s also physical progress. Did my Monday Measurements yesterday and had some excellent results. I weighed 209 lbs (up from 207.2 last week), got a 14.1% body fat on the Omron (down from 14.5% last week), measured in at 34.5″ waist (down from 35.5″ the previous week, though I think that’s more likely to be a measuring error), and pinched at 12mm on my suprailiac (no change from last week). So, taking these numbers together, and combining them with the changes I’m seeing in the mirror, I think I’m still leaning out a bit and am starting to put on more muscle. I’m definitely seeing increased definition in a lot of areas, even beyond what I had been seeing. I’m also feeling things slimming down just by the thickness of the subcutaneous fat over my various muscle groups.

Timeout for vanity or narcissism or whatever. For the past few weeks now, I have spent more than a little time touching my midsection. Now it’s my arms and shoulders, too. I spend longer than usual in front of the mirror when I’m getting ready. I just move my body around and watch what it does. This probably sounds weird and egotistical. Even to me, it does. But I don’t think it really is. Let me ‘splain.

I have never been lean. Not at any point in my entire life. I have been muscular, generally large, and strong, but never lean. Not even as a skinny teenager. I always just had a bit of a tummy on me, and it has bothered me ever since I got old enough to care what I looked like. This is a large part of why I have tried an absurd number of diet plans and workout plans. People who know me now may not know about all this, because I never really talked about it all that much. I’ve tried Atkins, Body for Life, Power of 10, Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle, Slow Carb, the Lifetime Fitness 50/25/25 plan, going soda free, candy free, and more that I can’t think of off the top of my head. I’ve read significantly more diet plans that I never tried. Some of these attempts actually lasted a while and worked pretty well. Eventually, though, the calorie counting, the portion control, and the fat reduction just wouldn’t work for me. I was hungry, I was tired, my digestive system was a mess, and I was bored with the same bland foods over and over (Atkins didn’t work because I thought I could eat the same amount of candy I always had, but replaced it with sugar free stuff. Sugar free candies have a laxative effect if eaten in excess, and one class session with my stomach rumbling so loudly that one of my classmates asked me if I was okay ended my Atkins experiment. Most of my experiences with the other diets would not have applied to Atkins if I had done it properly.) The plans just wouldn’t work for me long term, because I didn’t have the motivation to inspire the willpower to get over the hurdle of the diet to reach my goal. I also think that a lack of understanding held me back. I would read the books, absorb the information, follow the plans, etc., but it was a black box. I didn’t know what my body was doing with the foods I ate, and the diet plans didn’t seem to care. A calorie was a calorie, and the calories were really what mattered. Counting them either by portion control, by weighing and measuring, or by limiting the list of acceptable foods to the point where I literally couldn’t stomach more than a small amount got me to the same place. I was restricting calories, trying to increase activity, and seeing results, but only in a very slow way. My effort input into these plans was high, and my results output was low. Motivation waned.

Fast forward to the present. Rather, 6 months ago. I’m as heavy, as fat, and as lacking in muscle as I’ve been in a long time. Maybe ever. I’m feeling fat, I’m looking fat, and I’m just not happy with my life. My energy is pretty dismal, and I’ve got major digestive issues. If it wasn’t IBS, it was something close to it. I’m eating literally whatever I want, paying zero attention to calories, nutrient content, or anything else. About the only thing I’m not doing is drinking soda. I am working out a little, mostly running 3 miles 1-3 times a week at a reasonable pace. That starts to taper off after my Tough Mudder in June, though, and I’d pretty much stopped by September/October. I had gotten into pretty good shape with my trainer between March and June, but I didn’t maintain the diet or the exercise once we stopped working with him. I just settled in to a sedentary lifestyle full of sweets and drive-through food. Not just any drive-through food, either. Decadent, unnecessary crap like fried macaroni and cheese bites and french fries dipped in honey mustard dressing. Like the fries weren’t bad enough, right? It was less than ideal by any standard. Here’s the thing, though. I’m tall, and I have a big frame. So I didn’t look overly fat to people, even at 25+% body fat. I wore clothes that hid it well, and my beard kept a delineation between face and neck. I was fat by any reasonable definition, but I could get away with being fat because I still felt like I looked pretty okay. It’s amazing how our standards can fall to keep up an illusion we have about ourselves.  I didn’t really feel like I looked okay, I had just decided that I could live with looking not okay, because the effort required to get myself to looking good again wasn’t worth it. Hopefully that makes some kind of sense. So now, actually fast forward to the present. I’ve lost 40 pounds, over 10% body fat, 5-6 inches off my waist, etc. I’m the leanest I’ve ever been in my adult life, probably my childhood, too. Not just saying that, either. I tried on a suit I had gotten for a high school dance, and the pants are now loose on me. I’ve grown more than a little in height, and I weigh far more than I did, but my waist is significantly smaller than it was.

So what does this mean vis-a-vis my vanity/narcissism/egotism? Frankly, as confident as I have always seemed to the people who know me, I have always been insecure about my appearance, specifically my unclothed appearance. I was ashamed of my body, felt that I looked fat and unattractive, would avoid putting myself in situations where I thought people would be able to see and judge me with my shirt off, etc.  If I ever worked hard enough to start feeling good about myself, there was always my belly fat that kept me from getting too pleased with my progress. So now that I’m actually feeling confident and attractive and lean for the first time, I don’t think it’s vanity to be enjoying my new body. It’s more like fascination mixed with incredulity. I never thought my body would look like this. I’ve always been a combination of cerebral and physical, but my mind took precedence. I never cared enough about my body to work hard enough to get to this point before, but not having the body I wanted still bothered me. Does that make any sense? It bugged me, but just enough to make me feel bad about myself, not enough to make me change. That’s a bad spot to be in, for sure. So now, I’m feeling good. And feeling good about my body feels good. When I see myself in a mirror, or when I’m taking a shower and I feel my muscles moving under my skin, I feel strong, powerful and attractive. That’s an empowering feeling. Few people would say that I need any more confidence (I’m often accused of egotism or arrogance), but this is the kind of internal confidence I’ve been lacking, in one of the areas that has always bothered me. I’m probably going to be insufferable now.

So I’m going to celebrate it. I’m also going to celebrate the fact that I finally found the method that works for my body and for my level of motivation. Some people just roll out of bed and can’t wait to get into their running shoes, or can’t wait to go weigh out their egg white omelets or something. They enjoy the activity of being healthy, they enjoy the control they exert over their actions, and the results that they achieve through force of will. I know, because I have felt the same enjoyment. I just felt it for a few months before it faded away. The results I’m getting now completely outweigh the effort I’m putting in. Sticking with this lifestyle has been almost effortless, and the rewards have been fantastic. I’m not saying it’s the only way to get to your goals, but I’ve tried more than a few other ways and I can safely say that this is the best for me.

Whew, that’s a big long post. That’s just a load of stuff that’s been kicking around in my head for a while and it feels good to get it in writing. I’ll stop now. Thanks for reading!

Ketosis – Day 19

Peed on my stick this morning and came up with moderate ketones. Seriously, my urine is a mystery. Last night for dinner we had potatoes, onions, sausage and kale, all cooked up in a big electric skillet. It was really good. Jenna didn’t like the kale very much, and I understand why not. It really tasted like seaweed for some reason. Not sure why that would be, but there you go. I didn’t mind it so much, but I’m pretty tolerant of weird tastes overall. I’m also really keen on getting more kale into our diet and there are only so many ways to do that, so I can put up with non-ideal flavors if it means significant improvements in nutritional quality. I think it’s just about time to bust out the dehydrator again and make a giant batch of kale chips, since that’s the easiest way I can think of to eat the stuff. I heard very good things about using nutritional yeast, so I’m thinking that may be on the menu, too.

I also went to the gym yesterday and did some barbell lifting. Just bench and squat, and I only used a light weight (135 with each) so I could really concentrate on my form. I’m not really feeling any soreness in my legs from the squats, but I’m definitely feeling it in my chest from the presses. It feels good! So good that I think I might head back on Sunday to do it again. I also might add a deadlift, especially if I can figure out a good way to learn proper form before I go. I really want to focus on proper form and technical skill so i maximize my chance for improving and minimize my chance for injury. We’ll see how it goes, and I will keep you posted.

Okay, I’m going to go off on a bit of a rant. I’ve been reading a number of things, and talking to a number of people that have gotten me thinking about the prevalence of the overly-simplistic (in my opinion) calories in/calories out model. You watched Dr. Lustig yesterday talk about how hormones drive intake and output (you did watch, didn’t you?) so it’s less a factor of more eating = more fat, and more of an issue of more fat=more eating, oddly enough.  There have also been a number of studies showing that the content of the diet does have an effect, beyond the calories. Dr. Guyenet talks about that quite a bit in this piece: Twinkie Diet for Fat Loss Anyway, beyond that, there are other issues.

I’m going to be paraphrasing this post (Calorie is a Calorie is a Calorie) as well as adding my own thoughts. Okay, so the way we’re told to lose weight is pretty simple, right? You just burn more than you take in. And based on our understanding of basic physics, this should work, right? Energy cannot be created or destroyed, so if you burn more than you take in, you literally have to lose weight. It’s a scientific fact. Right? I suppose that depends. Is your body a closed system? Mine certainly isn’t. Heat goes out and comes in from the environment all the time. My activity level isn’t held constant, nor is the level of my metabolic processes. So, since we’re not closed systems, it’s entirely possible that extra calories consumed could be burned off by increased body temperature, increased fidgeting, or any number of other things. Decreased calorie intake could be compensated for by reduced body temperature, reduced activity level, etc.

Okay, but the rule still holds, right? Even if your metabolic rate decreases, you’re not violating calories in vs calories out, you just have to recalculate and adjust, right? Certainly. But let’s look at the ways we calculate our calories in and calories out. Calculating your calories is as easy as looking at the box (all your food comes in boxes, right?) and adding them up. Couldn’t be simpler. Except that it’s not so simple. Nutrition labeling guidelines are pretty loosey goosey with rounding. And you don’t even have to test your own food. You can take the established number for someone else’s ingredient and just use that. What does it matter if things are different species, grown in different areas of the country with different farming practices? Beef is beef, right? There’s also the issue that calories are calculated using the 4/4/9 estimation, which was developed in the early 1900s. However, things have changed since then. Foods have changed, people have changed, and understanding has changed. But our numbers haven’t.

One of the things that I don’t think is being taken into account is the energy cost of digesting different foods. Digesting protein is tougher for your body than digesting carbs or fat. I’ve seen estimates pegging the cost as 30%. So that means that every gram of protein you eat is actually netting out at 2.8 calories, not 4. You know, roughly. And if you even trust the original estimate of 4 calories per gram. And if you actually burn 100% of the protein to produce ATP instead of using the amino acids as raw material to repair or build cells. Wait, what? Yeah, there’s that. Your body uses your food as building blocks, which we all know intellectually, but I think it’s easily lost in the shuffle of calculating our intake. Your body is a wooden ship with a steam engine, let’s say. The fuel you bring on board can be used to patch holes or to fire the furnace. This holds for fat as well, but very minimally for carbohydrate. Your cells are mostly fat, protein, cholesterol, water, etc, but relatively few of your structures are carbohydrate. How much of the protein you eat is being used to build the ship, and how much is being shoveled into the furnace to keep it moving? I have no idea. You don’t, either.

How confident are you in those calorie counts now? Keep in mind that too much of a reduction in calories slows metabolism, reduces immune response, and does a whole mess of other things. If you’re shooting for a 10% daily calorie reduction and your estimation is off by 10%, you’re either eating exactly as many as you’re burning (rather, how many you think you’re burning, but we’ll get to that), or you’re actually cutting your calories by 20%. I think it’s safe to say our estimates aren’t even guaranteed to be within 25% of what we think they are. That’s just me talking out my butt, though, so don’t take my word for it. maybe I’m wrong. Maybe every potato produced in the US has exactly the nutrition that the USDA claims for a potato. Maybe every piece of beef has exactly the same ratio of protein to fat, and the exact same amount of moisture per pound uncooked. Maybe it’s not exact, but it’s pretty close. Sure, let’s go with that.

How do you determine how many calories you’re burning? Well you have your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is the number of calories you expend just keeping your body alive. This is what you would burn if you stayed in bed all day. You calculate this based on your age, weight and gender. There are some different calculations out there. Some of them use only lean mass as opposed to total mass. But really, either way, you’re burning the same number of calories as everyone else who is your weight, your gender and your age. Sound likely? I don’t think so either. What kind of variation do you think we might see? 10%+/- or so? I think that’s feasible. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe these numbers are perfect representations of everyone. Maybe everyone operates exactly the same. Sure, that sounds reasonable. Let’s go with that.

So now you have your BMR, you just need to add your activity, right? Let’s say you work at a desk job, there’s a calculation for that. You run a few times a week? There’s a calculation for that. You lift weights? There’s a calculation. See where this is leading? There’s no direct measurement for any of this. Direct measurement of these things involves a lot of expensive equipment and people hanging out near you all day. Even if you have a Body Bug or something, it’s not actually measuring your calories burned, it’s measuring a few things and then calculating your calories burned. Is it more accurate than just trusting the stair machine? Almost definitely. But you’re still looking at an error rate of some kind. The worst part is that none of these calculations take into account how efficient you are at something. I run using a barefoot style, which means I’m using the stretchiness of my tendons to help return energy back to my body with every step. Someone heel-striking isn’t getting that benefit. They’re burning more calories than I am, almost certainly. Even myself running on two different days can be wildly different levels of calorie burn. Both of them fall under the same calculation, though. A heart rate monitor loaded with my own info, again, is a better gauge, but still far from perfect.

So what’s your energy balance? Let’s summarize. You’re estimating your calorie intake based on calculations of estimates of calculations and incomplete understandings of how that fuel is used by your body. You’re estimating your daily BMR based on calculations of estimates of calculations based on a few numbers. You’re estimating how much you burn during exercise based on some calculations or some estimates, or some estimates based on calculations of some measurements. Any one of these things could easily be over or under estimated, and that could mean you’re either over- or under-eating, or over- or under-burning. How is it even possible to pretend that we can actually calculate these things in such a dynamic system?

Anyway, that’s my rant. I’ve been wanting to rant that rant for a while and it feels good to get it out.

Link time!

Poor Diet Linked to Teen Mental Health Problems – It’s an observational study, but it seems like a pretty solid one as far as it goes. It’s also in keeping with plenty of other studies that all suggest nutrient deficiencies can affect psychological health and behavior.  This just makes me think that we need to be eating a nutrient dense diet, avoiding processed foods, and all the rest.

Coconut Oil Touted as Alzheimer’s Remedy – An interesting news story on the benefits of coconut oil in a gentleman with Alzheimer’s. This is far from the first time I’ve heard about this, but it’s definitely the first time I’ve seen it broken down for the average person and presented in a relatively mainstream source. Nothing conclusive here, again, but strong indications that diet has something to do with this neurological disease.

Vitamin D – Why we’re not getting enough, how to get more, and what it means for your health.


Ketosis – Day 18

Okay, I’ve officially lost any idea about how ketosis works. Limiting carbs is supposed to do it, right? Here’s the problem. That worked at first. I cut my carbs in a big way, then slowly, my weight came down and my ketones came up. That was what I expected. Things seemed to be going more or less according to plan until this weekend, when my VLC plan fell flat on its face. Then I cranked back down on the carbs, but didn’t see ketones start in again. Then I had some berries and ketones came back the next morning. Maybe a fluke. Then cranked down again, with only a very small amount of potato for dinner, and saw no ketones again. Then yesterday I was pretty good all day, with a few notable exceptions. For one, I read Mark Sisson’s piece on how good dark chocolate is for you, so I had a little bit of that.

It was also my wife’s birthday, and we went to Outback (after our appointment with the midwife, then going to look at granite slabs, but before our first birth class. We’re busy.) and got steaks. I got broccoli and she got a sweet potato. I also got a cup of melted ghee, and dipped the broccoli into it, then poured the remainder over the steak. I’ve been doing this for over 4 months now, and I still get a thrill every time I get to eat delicious fats in a way that would have made me cringe before I learned the truth. Also, it was insanely delicious. Absolutely perfect in every way. I was pretty full, but since it was jenna’s birthday, we got the Chocolate Thunder from Down Under, which is a flourless brownie with ice cream and whipped cream and chocolate syrup. It’s one of their only gluten-free desserts, so we shared one to celebrate. I ate a fair amount of the brownie and a lot of the whipped cream/ice cream. It was sugary as all get out, but it was delicious, and Jenna didn’t want to eat the whole thing by herself. So anyway, the dessert dairy (non-pastured, of course) got me feeling a little icky during our class, but overall I felt fine.

We went home, went to bed, etc. I woke up and peed on my stick and I’m back to moderate ketones. What the heck? I was really expecting to be back to zero or trace, given the sugar blast I just put into my system. What gives? No idea. But hey, I’m over halfway through the ketosis trial now, and I’m succeeding with it most days. I’m definitely noticing continuing weight loss, though it is definitely slower the closer I get to my goal. I’m going to try to push the exercise a little bit more, and see if that helps me in leaning out, and I’m pretty sure it will. I’m doing higher-intensity full body movements, and those get my heart rate really high in a short period. It doesn’t take long, it feels great, and it’s building the cardio capacity i want. All good things.

Anything else? Oh yes, I mentioned pictures, didn’t I? Well here you go:

Same jeans I wore for the last fat pants shot. They’re quite a bit looser now (I’m about 10 pounds lighter), but I think the real change is in my arms, my chest, etc. I’m certainly still losing belly fat, but I’m also losing fat everywhere else. here’s a side by side of the two “fat pants” shots, for comparison:

I’m seeing improvements in my leanness in my arms and in my torso, which I think means that I’ve worked through enough belly fat to start losing it from other areas. I think this is the last stage before real, ab-showing leanness. Fingers crossed.

Okay, that’s it for now. Links, though.

The Vegetarian Myth – An interview with the author of the book The Vegetarian Myth. I’ve heard of it many times, but hadn’t really looked into it. She definitely has some different political/social views than I do, but we can agree on some things and disagree on others.

Damn Your Low Fat Diet – Reformed vegan talks about how much better his life is since ramping up his meat and fat intake. Great story.

Is Sugar Fattening? – Dr. Guyenet makes some very interesting points. I would have said “Yes” unequivocally before. But maybe not? Or maybe it’s not that sugar is fattening on its own, but that sugar increases insulin, which can then lead to leptin dysregulation, which then leads to overconsumption of sugar (as well as everything else). It’s a complex issue, but one very much worth digging into and learning about.

Sugar: The Bitter Truth – I know I’ve posted this before, but I just rewatched it today. I love it, and every time I see i get a little more out of it. I now have a much more comprehensive understanding of nutrition in the body and nutritional history, so I feel like I’m really understanding the video in context moreso than I used to. However, Lustig and Guyenet disagree, and hearing what both of them have to say is interesting.

I’m off! Thanks for reading.

Ketosis – Day 17

Yeah, bit of a gap, there. I’m still staying very low carb, for the most part. This weekend was rough, as I mentioned, and I did give in and have a bowl of blueberries swimming in heavy cream the other night. That was amazing. Still had moderate ketones the following morning, too, so I think the sugars in there didn’t amount to as much as I thought they might. Then last night I had literally two spoonfuls of mashed potatoes with my meat and this morning I was back down to trace or zero ketones. Stupid body. I even looked at the package and determined that 1/4 cup of them should only contain 10g of carbohydrate and I really should’ve been fine. But no, it didn’t work out that way. Oh well. What can you do but keep soldiering on?

So that’s what I’m doing. Just keeping on with my normal gig. Eggs and sausage or bacon for breakfast, a big salad for lunch and a meaty, veggie dinner, or lunch and dinner swapped. I’m feeling great, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, but I’m just intensely pleased with how much better I’m looking. I went from looking like a chubby, unfit guy to looking like a skinny unfit guy and I’m finally getting down to where I’m looking more lean and muscular. The intermediate stage was rough, since neither me nor my wife are fans of me looking skinny and unfit. I knew it would improve as I continued losing body fat, but I didn’t really anticipate how quickly it’s happening. I’m thinking it may be time for pictures again soon.I’m not as big as I’d like, but the body composition is getting to the point where even my limited muscle mass is looking pretty decent. I’m hoping to start gaining more soon, though.

I talked to another friend today who has inspired me to make much more of an effort to go lift heavy things at my gym. He’s changed to a paleo-type diet and said he is incredibly impressed with how well his lifting has progressed. Since I would really love to start building muscle in a big way, that appeals to me greatly. I’ve been doing my body weight exercises pretty consistently 3-4 times per week, and even bumped it up a bit on Monday and did some kettlebell swings, shoulder presses, deadlifts, and pull ups. All light weights, just to get my heart pumping, but it felt great. I’m actually still feeling the swings in my thighs today, which tells me it had been far too long since I did them last. So I’m going to keep up with that 1-2 times per week to get my cardio working. I’m going to do my best to get to the gym tomorrow morning to do some bench, squat and deadlift. Light weights, since I won’t have a partner and haven’t done any of those with any regularity for a long time. I just want to move some heavy weight and see how it feels. Not real heavy, but heavier than the ~50 pounds I get out of my KB. I’ll probably start at 100-150 pounds with each and see how that feels. I may push the squat and deadlift a bit more, since there’s less risk of crushing myself with the bar. We’ll just have to see. In any case, I’m pretty excited about it.

Okay, times for links. I’m in a Mat Lalonde fanboy mood these days, so you get Mat Lalaonde links.

The Science behind the Paleolithic Diet – An interview where mat goes into his measured, rational, research-based views on the paleo diet. He’s a lot less evangelical about it than many others, or at least has much more nuanced and context-based view. He still comes to the same conclusions that most other paleo proponents do, but he gets there via hardcore scientific inquiry, and doesn’t rely on any lazy arguments. It’s compelling and humbling, and reminds me that I have a tendency to get sloppy with my claims sometimes. Watching Mat is good for me.

The Science of Nutrition – A preview of a seminar Mat gives. I really, really want to take this sometime. It would probably blow my liberal arts brain out the back of my head, but it would be worth it. Also, you can see how jacked he is in this one. Whatever he’s doing, I want to be doing it too.

An Organic Chemist’s Perspective on Paleo – This is the one that really pins my ears back . I’m guilty of a lot of this, and the more times I watch this, especially after having learned more so I have better context, the more sense it all makes and the more I understand about why precision is so important. This is the talk that makes it very clear that it isn’t “paleo vs science” like so many people seem to want to think, it’s “science vs science” and we need to have our ducks in a row to make sure we’re making the very real, very legitimate scientific claims that support our position. I could probably stand to watch this thing every few weeks just to hammer that into my head when I start getting a little fast and loose with my explanations.

Keto Crater

I totally lost my ketosis this weekend. We hosted two get-togethers at our house and went to a friend’s house, and while I did manage to stay gluten free I definitely overdid it on the carbs. I peed on a stick this morning and was back down to trace ketones, so I’m not anticipating inspiring numbers on the scale tomorrow. I did have a number of chances to test my body fat with the Omron (a number of people who came over wanted to try it) and I’m consistently measuring between 14 and 14.5% which is awesome.  I’m going to crank back down on my carbs this week, and see how I do. I’m actually liking ketosis pretty well, but I do miss my fruit. After my 30 days, I think I will probably stick with a lower carb paleo thing unless I get my butt in gear with my sprinting a couple times a week.

So anyway, food this weekend was good. Burgers with Udi’s gluten free buns, sweet potato chips and dip. It was tasty, and the buns were actually pretty darned good. I’ve noticed with gluten free bread products that toasting them makes a huge difference. Saturday I made my lasagna to take to a friend’s house so all the glutards could eat it while others ate pizza. All of the wheat-free people enjoyed it, and even a few others got a piece after they finished their pizza. Apparently they were worried about eating it before those who needed it had been given a fair chance, but still wanted some. That always makes me feel good. Tonight, I made zuppa toscana and asparagus and Against the Grain garlic bread. It was all pretty delicious. Plenty of compliments, even from the folks who aren’t usually inclined to such.

So anyway, that’s what was going on with my weekend. Busy at home working on projects, making a lot of good progress. Everything is coming together, both on the homefront and the health front. I’ve got more and more friends asking me about paleo dieting and looking like they’re willing to give it a try. That’s incredibly rewarding, too. Plenty of friends have already started and are having awesome results, and they are great to talk to, too.

Also, today, for the very first time, my wife agreed that there is probably something to the whole gluten thing. She’s been gluten free for a few weeks now (since leaving her job to be a stay-at-home mom-to-be) and yesterday had half a flour tortilla to appease my mother. She’s such a trooper. But anyway, she ended up feeling pretty sick later in the day and even through the night. That sucks, obviously, but the fact that she’s actually experienced the problem first hand now means it will be easier for her to stay on track and stay away from the gluten. With everything I’ve been reading about it, whatever it takes to keep my loved ones away from it is good stuff. She also noted that since staying away from it for a couple of weeks, she no longer has the intense cravings for wheat that she had at first. As you read more of Dr. Davis’ work, that’s very much in keeping with the intense, drug-like addiction people experience while eating modern wheat. So now that she’s gotten away from it, has broken the addiction, has had the nasty gluten sickness, I think she’ll be happier to stay away from it for good with me, which just makes things easier all around. So even though I’m not happy that she got sick, I’m definitely happy that she’s on the same page with me now.

Okay, I’m really going now. You guys have fun and I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Bacon Wrapped Egg Cups

Hey all! Things really seem to be going well in the body fat department for me. I’m noticing reduced fat deposits and increased definition in all sorts of new places. Seems like every day there’s a new change, even if it’s subtle, and those really keep me not just going, but excited. This morning, I saw the first hints of a line separating my pectoral from my shoulder. That’s totally new. Exciting times!

Last night for dinner, I had the leftover steak from the night before, and a pork chop. I have to say, I like pork okay, but there’s sort of a distinctive porky flavor to some of it that I really don’t love. Bacon is amazing, and ham, but the pork chops and shoulders just have this flavor to them that I can’t especially describe. I’ll keep eating them, but I much prefer beef and chicken. I might have to try my “pulled pork” recipe with beef instead sometime and see how we like it.

Okay, I know I mentioned a new recipe. So here goes. I stole it from here: Bacon Wrapped Egg Cups

First, set your oven to 400º.

Next, cover a cookie sheet in foil.

Like that. Make sure it’s a big enough piece that it will wrap under on all 4 sides.

Now add your cooling rack thingy.

Solid. If you don’t have a cooling rack that fits perfectly into a half sheet pan, that’s something you should fix. It’s awesome.

Now, arrange your bacon.

This is good. Bacon goes into the oven for 20 minutes or so. You want it to cook through, but not get crispy. This is more bacon than we’ll be using for this recipe, but it’s not like you won’t eat what’s left, right?

Now, pull out your jar of bacon fat (you just pour the leavings from your bacon batches into a jar and store it in the fridge) and a muffin tray.

Take a plastic baggie and grease the muffin cups with the bacon grease. This will help keep the egg from sticking. Don’t trust a non-stick surface. Eggs are tricksy.

Now, use the bacon (should be brown but not crispy, remember) to line the muffin cups. Tear off pieces to fill the bottom of the cups.

That’s the way.

Pull out some eggs. Like these ones.

You’ll need one per cup. I’m only doing six cups, but one of my packages of eggs only had 4 eggs left in it. First world problems.

Crack each egg and put one into each muffin cup.

That’s the way to hit it, homes.

How about some cheese up on those mofos? Maybe some salt and pepper?


Put these babies into the oven on 350º for about 15 minutes. You want the eggs to cook all the way through. Unless you don’t. That sounds pretty good, too. Then pull them out and use some kind of utensil to extract them from muffin cups and put them on a plate.

Now you eat these wonderful pockets of breakfasty goodness. Because they’re awesome.

Lessons Learned: These were good, but I think they could be better. Instead of just straight eggs going into the muffin tin, I’m thinking next time I’ll scrambled them, add a little cream, and some cheese, then pour it in. Then more cheese on top. Because cheese.

So there you go. These are great. They’re fun, easy, and it’s a great way to eat eggs and bacon in one fell swoop with only your hands. It’s all low-carb, very filling, and a great way to start your day. Also probably fun for kids, I’m guessing? people with kids or who are kids, let me know how kids like these. Because I’m thinking it will be a lot.

Now for our links! I’m linking a couple things below that don’t have anything to do with diet. They’re more about how our evolutionary perspective on health shouldn’t end with our guts. Specifically, if you think that humans are incapable of running without expensive and padded shoes, I’d like to introduce you to the entire continent of Africa. Humans run just fine in bare feet, and actually better in many cases. Here’s some info on it for you:

The Barefoot Professor – A good intro to the ideas behind barefoot running.

Why Runners get Injured – It doesn’t go so far as to say that barefoot running is better for all people all the time, but it definitely seems like a forefoot strike helps to minimize the frequency of injury to runners. Worth reading.

Newton Running – This is a shoe company (whose shoes I own and enjoy, but had to buy for myself with real American dollars) that specializes in running shoes designed for people who strike with their forefoot. I don’t think the argument is “barefoot vs shoes” it’s more like “forefoot vs heel strike” and Newton gets that. You don’t need their shoes to learn a ton about proper running form from them.

Okay, that’s it for now. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!