Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Food Industry wants your money at any expense.

I'm going to keep this entry short and sweet and direct you to this cover story of the NY Times Magazine this week. This blog was rebooted and repurposed a little less than a year ago with the belief that the Food Industry is on the verge of undergoing the same transformation undergone by Big Tobacco a few years ago:
  • both industries have a product that is massively profitable
  • both industries have a product that is greatly ingrained in American culture and habit
  • both industries have a product that is killing us at epidemic proportions
One industry has undergone a great deal of legislation, regulation, fines and a more honest discussion of how dishonest they were in manipulating the American public to simply make a buck. The other is just starting to realize they may be on the less fortunate path if they don't do something fast.

The piece is an excerpt from what promises to be a muck-raking book about what Big Food doesn't want you to know, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss, and it starts off with a meeting of the top executives from many of the major food companies at Pillsbury HQ. One, Kraft Vice President Michael Mudd gave a PowerPoint presentation...
Mudd then did the unthinkable. He drew a connection to the last thing in the world the C.E.O.’s wanted linked to their products: cigarettes. First came a quote from a Yale University professor of psychology and public health, Kelly Brownell, who was an especially vocal proponent of the view that the processed-food industry should be seen as a public health menace: “As a culture, we’ve become upset by the tobacco companies advertising to children, but we sit idly by while the food companies do the very same thing. And we could make a claim that the toll taken on the public health by a poor diet rivals that taken by tobacco.”
The piece only gets uglier from there, looking at secret documents of experiments and lab reports designed to make foods addictive. Not ha-ha I got the fever for the flavor of a Pringle, but literally addictive.
Warning: May be fever inducing. Symptoms include upon a single pop, not being able to stop.
From scientifically designing the flavor of a soda pop to reach a "bliss point", to refining carbohydrates that are absorbed so quickly they impose the opposite reaction of feeling satiated, to creating prepacked lunch kits with super-processed sugar-dosed meat and cheese and super-sweet yogurt products packed in tubes to give children the idea that they are in command while tricking parents into thinking they are giving them something healthy, this excerpt is a pretty chilling reminder of what capitalist hunger for profit looks like when decoupled from any responsibility: personal, corporate, moral, ethical or otherwise.

Another week comfortably in my budget of 2200-2350. Friday evening had dinner with an old friend I hadn't seen since last winter, she was beside herself with compliments, saying she didn't recognize me from a distance because of my slimmer shape, that my skin was healthy, blah blah blah. After last month's dramatic 10 lb loss in part due the double whammy of the flu and preparing for a colonoscopy, let's see what the scale says next week, huuurg....

Definitely felt a calorie hang over from the weekend, so it was easy to stay below budget. Stomach was weirdly unhappy in the morning, full but empty, so I kicked off the eating day with fresh juice instead of something solid. I think this may become part of my breakfast rotation.

AM SNACK: 8:15am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 11:30am, apple/beet/kale juice, 115 cal

PM SNACK: 1:45pm, momma salad, 100 cal

LUNCH: 2:30pm, chicken sausage, bengal lentils, steamed string beans, 7oz diet coke, 545 cal

PM SNACK: 4:30pm, beef jerky, 160 cal

DINNER: 8:45pm, shrimp, brown teff, health salad, poppa salad, 7oz diet sprite 690 cal
Teff is a weird grain. This is the second time I made it. The package says use 3x the water to grain, but last time I tried, it came out as a thick paste. This time I did 4x the water, and it was good but soupy. I was able to throw the shrimp in to make the dish, but it was a bit bland and watery. Still, for a grain, relatively low calorie....

EVENING SNACK: 10pm, Frito's, 300 cal

Surprisingly not sore at all from the pull-up drops yesterday, which makes me think I need to hit it harder ASAP. Came in low on the budget, thought briefly I could get away with a low-cal day, but within 45 minutes of my first evening snack, I found myself with sugar cravings -- thinking how dark chocolate chips and peanuts is actually relatively low glycemically, and if I just eat 300 cal worth, it'll be in budget. My mind was trying to justify eating sugar even though I made a promise not to eat sugar during the week.  So I double-downed on another snickity snack, which still kept me in budget and while it wasn't satisfying, it definitely took the edge off and allowed me to get to sleep at a normal time.

AM SNACK: 8am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10am, Fage whole yogurt with agave, almonds and vanilla, 415 cal

PM SNACK: 1pm, beef jerky, 160 cal

LUNCH: 3:15pm, almond butter & jelly on whole wheat, momma salad, 7oz diet coke, 630 cal

PM SNACK: 7pm, poppa salad, 150 cal

DINNER: 8:30pm, sauteed beef tenderloin, broccoli, butternut squash soup, 7oz diet sprite, 400 cal
Didn't mean to go so low-cal, only realized it after doing the math after I've eaten. Weird, such a large piece of beef, a big mound of broc and a proper bowl of soup would add up to so little.

EVENING SNACK: 9:30pm, Fritos, 300 cal

EVENING SNACK: 10:15pm. cheesy poofs, 300 cal

Had some relatives I don't see often over for dinner, so I did a full-court press. Mac n' cheese, roasted brussels, butternut squash soup, chicken for their son and I, ice cream I also made over the weekend. I spent a part of the day making chocolate babka, which is a multi-hour ordeal. However, I somehow skipped dessert, despite all the effort, despite my family and relatives all eating it together, complimenting me on it, etc. It was both hard and easy to resist -- telling myself come Saturday morning, I'm gonna murder a large piece of babka kinda made it easier.

AM SNACK: 8am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10:15am, steel cut oatmeal, 375 cal

LUNCH: 1:30pm, hake fish, steamed string beans, mushroom takatak, momma salad, 7oz diet coke, 660 cal
Another precooked micro-pack of Indian food, was meh. Gonna stick with lentils, more protein anyway.

PM SNACK: 4pm, apple/carrot/kale/beet/ginger juice, 160 cal

DINNER: 6:30pm, sauteed chicken breast, roasted brussel sprouts, mac n' cheese, half glass of wine,  +/- 800 cal
In addition to skipping dessert, I included some mac n' cheese in this meal just so we were all eating the same thing. However, I needed to keep it to 100 cal: 100 cal of homemade mac n' cheese is not a lot of food. Two ounces is a piece about 1" x 1" x 2", about 1/6 of a seemingly moderate portion. Still, I enjoyed the hell out of it's richness and it was enough.

EVENING SNACK: 8:45pm, poppa salad, 150 cal

EVENING SNACK: 9:30pm, Frito's, 7oz diet sprite, 160 cal
Bad sugar cravings. Could the half glass of wine or mac n' cheese set it off? Serving a decadent dessert to everyone after dinner? And damn, only had enough budget for half my usual Frito's, which happened to be the "suggested serving size". One measly ounce of Frito's, who the hell thinks this is a suggested serving?

Did laundry last night and woke up early to lift weights before B split for work, as didn't want to sacrifice this because Edie is out of school this week.

AM SNACK: 7:15am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 9:30am, steel cut oatmeal, 375 cal

LUNCH: 12:30pm, 4 small slices fancy pizza, small green salad with creamy dressing, water, +/- 700 cal
Out with the kids in Brooklyn visiting C and her family. We needed something close by and convenient and her local pizza shop was, for some unknown reason, a French pizzeria. The 16" pie had unusually thin, cracker-like crust, the sauce was delicate, the moz was offset with something like Gruyere. Very good, very not filling, he he. I ate half the pie and estimate the caloric load as less then 2 normal slices of streetza.

PM SNACK: 2:30pm, momma salad, 100 cal

PM SNACK: 4pm, beef jerky, 160 cal

PM SNACK: 5:15pm, poppa salad, 150 cal

DINNER: 8:30pm, chicken meatballs with shirataki noodles and homemade tomato sauce and Parmesan, 7oz dier sprite, 590 cal

EVENING SNACK: 8:45pm, Fritos, 180 cal 

Despite having a night out with friends, still pretty much kept on track. Feeling slightly hungry when I got into bed confirmed it.

AM SNACK: 8:15am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 9am, Fage whole yogurt with agave, vanilla and almonds, 415 cal

LUNCH: 11:45am, almond butter and grape jelly on whole wheat, momma salad, 7oz diet coke, 500 cal

PM SNACK: 2:45pm, apple/carrot/beet/kale/ginger juice, 130 cal

DINNER: 6pm, hijiki tofu patty, spinach salad, french onion soup, water, +/- 700 cal

EVENING SNORT: 8:15pm, whiskey, +/- 100 cal

EVENING SNACK: 9pm, potato chips, 240 cal

EVENING SNACK: 11:30pm, slice of streetza, +/- 300 cal

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Over Consumption

Feed a lot, too.
Over consumption is not a part of the problem. It's the WHOLE problem: obesity is merely a side-effect, and increasing consumption is what makes our economic system function. I sometimes marvel at the fact that all discussions of the obesity epidemic don't revolve around money and economics. Things are set up to make us fat because it is profitable to do so.

You can argue that it is not profitable: the human cost in terms of health is great, and the financial cost in terms of health care wipe out any profit, but that ignores the question of who profits and who pays. Private industry profits and taxpayers pay. Or if you accept Big Food & Big Gov's reasoning that acts of individual responsibility will solve the obesity epidemic, then more accurately it is: Large corporations profit and individuals pay.

That's not to say that the need created to stop obesity isn't profitable, either (hello, never ending diet-industry!) The New York Times recently threw a spotlight on a restaurant trend: charge the same money for less food!
Hank Cardello, director of the obesity solutions initiative at the Hudson Institute, a public policy research organization, has been studying the impact that lower-calorie menu options have on restaurants’ business. “Lower-calorie menu items were driving restaurant growth over the last several years, no doubt about it,” Mr. Cardello said.
The results of his research were published Thursday in a report financed in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The Obama administration’s health care act, which was passed in 2010, included a provision requiring restaurants and food establishments with 20 or more locations to post the calorie counts of standard items on their menus. The final regulations are expected soon, with compliance likely to be required by 2014.
Some restaurant chains have already begun posting calorie counts.
Gubbermint tyranny!

It's nice to see Big Government doing exactly what it's supposed to: effect change for good through public policy, regulation and common sense limits on things that effect the public health. Unless, of course, those regulations have no teeth, like if they were to depend on the industry to label their own products, with out any system of oversight in place...

I'm a calorie-counter five days a week. I depend mostly on this database for the values of the food a prepare at home, but when I do eat prepared and restaurant food, most the time I depend on the labeling to tell me the calories of what I'm eating. 
  • The Bad News: Though the law requires calorie information in chain restaurants in NYC (and soon federally), there is no mechanism to actually check the accuracy of the numbers. It's all self-reported. Unsurprisingly, a spot check of 5 foods sold in NYC revealed four of the five to have enough unreported calories to equal two Snickers bars. 
  • The Good News: The only food that actually had less calories than advertised is a Subway sandwich, the only thing on the list that I eat even occasionally. OK, maybe that's good news for me.
So even when there is an attempt to inform the public of exactly what they are eating, private industry can really not be depended on to err on the side of avoiding over consumption. Because it's that extra is where the profit lies. I imagine there are many graduate school theses out there which expound on the relationship of capitalism and obesity a lot more elegantly than this little blog-post, but hey, as I struggle from week to week to measure and limit my consumption, certain things just seem more and more obvious.

Another week decent week. Went over here and there, but got small bike ride in and kept up on the vegetable consumption, both raw, cooked & juiced.

Worked out this morning, the soreness in my pull-up muscles only really faded after almost 4 days, and could feel a weird weakness while doing my altered routine. However, when I got to bench presses, I could barely get the dumbbells over my head, which has never been a problem before -- I guess what I'm doing to get to one damn pull up is wreaking havoc on my upper torso. And that's a good thing, I hope.

Thought I could come under budget today due to excess eating over the weekend, but started to get crazy-hungry as the night went on, and it wasn't sugar-cravings, either. I guess every day is a new day, only minimally effected if you came under or over calorie budget the day before.

AM SNACK: 7:45am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10:30am, steel cut oatmeal, 375 cal

PM SNACK: 12:30pm, momma salad, 100 cal

LUNCH: 2pm, chicken sausage, madras lentils, steamed string beans, 7oz diet coke, 510 cal

AFTERNOON SNACK: 5:45pm, apple/carrot/beet/kale/ginger juice, 140 cal cal

DINNER: 8:45pm, shrimp and mushrooms with shirataki noodles in sesame oil and soy, poppa salad with homemade dressing, 7oz diet sprite, 605 cal
Found real shirataki noodles at my local supermarket -- not tofu shirataki, but 100% yam starch, with 0 calories. I actually liked the texture more, a little chewier, reminds me very closely of glass noodles. I don't know if it's related, but my digestive system fully "released" a few hours later. Hmmm.

EVENING SNACK: 10pm, Frito's, 300 cal

EVENING SNACK: 11:45pm, cheezits, 210 cal

(BIKE CREDIT: - 600)
Woke up very sore in the upper torso, particularly the backs of my upper arms. Though uncomfortable, looking forward to this soreness getting less and less, and hopefully will result up! Had kid-free time in the afternoon and the weather pushed into the 40s, so I rode out to Coney Island slowly on the commuter bike, and took the train back from there. According the Bicycle Magazine's calorie calculator, I burned about 950 calories, but I know when I compared that calculator to my calorie-tracking cyclometer on my road bike, the website over-estimates by about 1/3, so a 600 cal credit feels about right....because even with the extra snacks, I still went to sleep moderately hungry.

AM SNACK: 8:15am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10:15am, Fage whole yogurt with agave, almonds and vanilla, 415cal

LUNCH: 1pm, almond butter & grape jelly on whole wheat, momma salad, 7oz diet coke, 630 cal

BIKE SNACK: 4:15pm, beef jerky, 60 cal

BIKE SNACK: 5:30pm, cheezits, 210 cal

DINNER PT 1: 6:45pm, poppa salad, butternut squash soup, 250 cal

DINNER PT 2: 8:15pm, hake loins, quinoa, roasted broccoli, pickle, 7oz diet sprite, 585 cal

EVENING SNACK: 8:45pm, Frito's, 300 cal

EVENING SNACK: 9:30pm, Stouffer's French bread pizza, 430 cal
I was craving sugar but it wasn't too hard to suppress. However, it did occur to me that no healthy snack really appealed to me in this moment. Apples were still sugar, almonds or peanuts could have done it but needed chocolate chips to pair with, already vegetable'd-out from earlier in the day.

Took B out for a nice meal at a resto in the early evening, as she already had plans tomorrow night and V-day at a good resto is always high pressured, overpriced and underwhelming. Was able to still eat a relatively healthful meal, though the +/- 8oz steak had so few (deliciously prepared) string beans, that the presentation even riffed on it -- the plate comes and all you see is a steak with a ring of butternut squash cream, and tucked underneath the meat is a small thin bed of greens.

Had slight sugar cravings in the evening, and was slightly hungry, but not enough to push me into a snack -- a small can of diet soda was enough business for my hands/mouth/stomach to be satisfied.

AM SNACK: 8:15am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10am, steel cut oatmeal, 375 cal

AM SNACK: 11:45am, momma salad, 100 cal

LUNCH: 12:45pm, sardine & avocado on whole wheat toast, health salad, 7oz diet coke,  620 cal
Made health salad a few days ago, from the 2nd Ave Deli recipe. As with the name, it's probably the healthiest thing on the menu. It's shredded raw cabbage marinated in white vinegar, a bit of olive oil, some white sugar and a little salt and white pepper. It's a bit caloric for a "salad", but hey, if your going to get raw cabbage down, a little sugar goes a long way.

PM SNACK: 4pm, apple/carrot/kale/beet/ginger/celery juice, 170 cal

DINNER: 7:15pm, marinated skirt steak with a few string beans, one small potato croquette, small portion of deep-fried lightly breaded cauliflower, bite of fennel & goat cheese flat bread, sip of wine, small taste of berry crumble, +/- 900 cal

EVENING SNACK: 10:30pm, 7oz diet sprite, 0 cal

I intended to do a grain with dinner, but when doing the math, realized I would not have budget for an evening snack, and it was the smallest, most calorie-dense thing on the plate so it was easy to cut. However, after my evening snack, I felt a different kind of craving, somewhere between sugar lust and a normal hunger. Could I be just craving carbs, any carbs? I busted the budget with a half-serving of Frito's, which hit the spot, and still went to sleep a little hungry, so I don't feel bad about slightly going over.

AM SNACK: 7:15am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10:15am, fruit smoothie, 375 cal
Funny, I did a count on this smoothie for the first time in a while, as it's a new fruit mix, a new juice, variable banana etc, and it almost came out at 375 on the nose.

PM SNACK: 12:15pm, momma salad, 100 cal

LUNCH: 1:45pm, chicken meatballs, brussel sprouts, jodpur lentils, 7oz diet coke, 665 cal

PM SNACK: 6:30pm, poppa salad, 150 cal

DINNER: 7pm, grilled boneless pork chops, roasted asparagus, health salad,  675 cal
Picked up some thin cut chops from the local market. I cooked them hot and fast on a grill pan like I do chicken, and they came out a little tough, momma-style. Next time will cook them a little less. I know, it is unAmerican to not incinerate pork, I'm freaky like that.

EVENING SNACK: 9:15pm, cheesy poofs, 7oz diet sprite, 300 cal

EVENING SNACK: 10:15pm, Frito's, 160 cal

Woke up sore again from the previous day's work out, particularly in my pecs -- after doing the slow pull-up drops, I did chest-flys which were harder than usual but still accomplished my reps. Not as sore as previously....could one damn pull up be in my future?

Went to a yoga class with T and her posse. Had a nice vegan dinner afterwards, which was right on portion but oddly heavy on bread and light on veg. We went to get some dairy-free ice cream afterwards to celebrate the warm weather and broke my 5-day sugar ban, but it felt right -- with good friends, a shared pleasure. But I think I'll start Saturday off a little low key to make up for it!

AM SNACK: 8am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 9:15am, Fage whole yogurt with agave, almonds and vanilla, 415cal

PM SNACK: noon, poppa salad, 150 cal

LUNCH: 1pm, grilled pork chops, health salad, whole wheat cous cous, pickle, 7oz diet coke 740 cal
Marinated the chops in oil and wine, with a little sage and salt. Cut grilling time to 3.5 minutes, came off medium-well instead of the slightly dry well done yesterday. Will do 2.5 minutes next week to get a nice medium, with a slight hint of pink in the middle. Nice to work with a cut my mom fed me, but a zillion times tastier. I can feed this to my kids, and instead of being horrified, they'll enjoy it...

PM SNACK: 5:15pm, apple/carrot/beet/kale/ginger juice, 150 cal

SNICKLEDINNER: 7:45pm, falafel with tahini, hummus, lentil bulgar salad, pita, water, vegan chocolate ice cream, +/- 1100 cal

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Never exercise, just skip the Breakfast Soda.

If you really love food, if you can only stay sane by rewarding yourself with burgers and chocolate, or if you work with food for a living, are you doomed to be a lard butt? According to Big Food and Big Bev and Big Gov, you can consume until your heart's content, just "balance" it with some exercise. That's all! Keep on buying! Don't change any bad habits that keep our industry funded that you childishly enjoy! Just jog a little and consume our reduced-flavor-calorie stuff!
Killer At Large: Why Obesity is America's Greatest Threat (also available on Netflix on-demand) is a pretty decent documentary that goes beyond the usual hand-wringing and approaches the issue from multiple angles, including one that is commonly sidelined in the media: economic.

It is in the economic interest of industry to keep things the way they are, and it is the driving force of capitalism for unending growth & expansion (pun intended.) So when government gets involved in tackling the obesity issue, food and over-consumption tends to be overlooked in favor of personal responsibility and more efficiently consuming large amounts of food with....a little bit 'o exercise! The documentary includes some cringe worthy clips of Bush extolling his love of exercise and biking, and exercise gurus yelling at a room full of press attending an obesity conference to stand up and shake their butts.

I was trapped driving a car recently for about 6 hours, and was forced to listen to CNBC to stay awake. They had an interview with the CEO of Pepsico, and a lot of hay was made comparing them to Coke. Thing is, Coke does just beverages. Pepsi does all sorts of food, from soda to chips to candy to crackers, almost all of which are designed to be, in the words of the CEO, "fun-for-you" foods. However, in response to the obesity epidemic, they are doing much research to roll out "good-for-you" versions of the same foods we gobble up.

Short thrift is given to a few critics who scoff at Pepsi, as soda and chips are bad for you, period, and if you just make artificially-sweetened sodas and reduced-fat chips, your still propagating a culture of over-consumption, overly processed foods, and still leave out the basics that a company like Pepsico have no interest in -- hawking whole vegetables, whole fruits, and laying off everything else.
Consume more: Breakfast Soda.
Pepsico issued a press release on a new product today: Kickstart Mountain Dew. It's not a soda, or a juice, or an energy drink, but a combination. This is Pepsico's spin on a "good-for-you" product: breakfast soda. It tastes like Mountain Dew, with a citrus or fruit punch twist, has only 80 calories per 16 oz serving, has the caffeine of about a cup of coffee and has juice in it. Five percent juice, actually. So, basically, it's Mountain Dew with a teeny amount of juice, a jolt of caffeine, and the corn syrup is cut with artificial sweeteners to bring the calories down. I'll say it again: Pepsico's idea of a new good-for-you food is reduced-calorie breakfast soda.

The New York Times recently featured a working chef named Jesse Schenker who dropped 55 pounds in a year. One can assume he's been eating his ass off, and just "balanced" his professional life with some exercise, right?
Trips to the gym are not part of Mr. Schenker’s repertory; he tried that and didn’t like it. 
-record scratch- Wh-wh-what?! Indeed, when you work upwards of 60-80 hours a week (around food no less) and wish to both sleep and have a relationship with another human being, spending hours on a treadmill or lifting weights for even an hour is not an option. Pray tell, how did Jesse drop a fifth of his body weight with out religious trips to the gym?
Dr. Gullo told the chef that he was a “finisher,” someone for whom mere contact with a basket of bread, a box of doughnuts or a bag of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish would lead, inevitably, to the inhaling of its complete contents.
The trick was to provide Mr. Schenker with something different to inhale. Sugar and other carbohydrates were out. Certain fats were discouraged. Shrimp, salmon, egg whites and Greek yogurt were in. Mr. Schenker applied his knowledge as a chef to create dishes that used the ingredients Dr. Gullo had rubber-stamped. “I came up with a million things,” he said, among them a curried egg salad in which Greek yogurt stood in for mayonnaise. These days Mr. Schenker might plow through a bowl of that, shoveling it down with the help of high-fiber, low-carb crackers.
“I’m still a finisher and I’m still eating at 1 in the morning,” he said. What he’s eating, though, might be a big bowl of shrimp.
Huh. So Jesse changed what he was eating and in effect consumed less calories and more fiber and nutrients. As for working around food, I spent some time working full-time in a professional kitchen and...I lost a lot of weight, because instead of eating meals, I was nibbling all day so I never got hungry despite eating less and always being on my feet. So Jesse had that going for him, and when he wasn't working with potentially unhealthy food, he came correct.
Exercise is for those of unrefined taste and undeveloped sense of honor!
It's a slippery slope to be against exercise. I Internet-trawled for arguments against exercise and mostly came up with screeds like this, most likely written by guys who as kids got picked last for the kick-ball team. I found a lot of legitimate reasons to exercise from many, many sources:
  • Builds lung, heart and organ strength
  • Builds muscle tone and muscle mass
  • Curbs hunger (during the activity)
  • Helps with depression
  • Delays the onset of age-related deterioration
And for the most part, I agree full-on with those reasons. I lift weights twice a week for about 45 minutes, I ride my bike as much as humanly possible in the cold season and ride a road bike 50-150 miles a week in the warm season. It makes me feel good, it helps me clear my head, and my body is stronger for it.

However, exercise is not the answer to lose weight. Not even half the answer. In fact, I'd go so far to make two statements:
  • One can lose weight with absolutely no exercise by reducing caloric intake alone.
  • Exercise can be be counterproductive to losing weight.
Yep, if you exercise anabolicly (i.e. lift weights and the like), your muscles will respond by getting bigger. Muscles weights more than fat. Of course, it is much healthier to be 210 lbs of lean muscle than 210 pounds of mushy fat, but this blog is about losing the chunk and not becoming a walking wall of muscle.

And yes, if you exercise aerobically (i.e. run, cycle, jog, treadmills,) your body will burn calories quicker than if you were sitting on the couch watching Buffy. However, when the rubber hits the road, it's not so simple.

To lose a pound of fat, you need to burn 3500 calories. More precisely, you need to burn 3500 calories more than you take in. Let's say you want to bike and lose a pound. It's going to take me about 3 hours of moderate effort on a bike to burn about 3500 cal. Voila, lost a pound in just 3 hours, right? Of course not, because when you aerobically work out for 3 hours, those calories need to come from somewhere, and they ain't coming straight from your butt to your power-stroke. Your blood sugar is going to drop unless you feed your self. And if you let it go, you will be hungrier than you ever were. If you try to not take in any calories, you get really tired, listless and fuzzy. Then you lose consciousness/fall asleep. And when you wake up you will feel weird. And very hungry. I know, I've done it.

I've been a fat cyclist for over ten years because even though I'd burn massive amounts of calories, I'd consume even more massive numbers of calories. My traditional post-ride meal would be a combo-plate from a local Chinese restaurant. That $9 plate would easily be over 2000 calories. And the pint of ice cream that would chase it would be another 1000. That's not to mention the several thousand calories I would eat while riding to keep my blood sugar steady....

Advertising really brings out the worst, sometimes.

Last Saturday ate relatively conservatively until a birthday thing with pie, Mallomars and cupcakes, which gave me the sugar rush and a slight crappy feeling. Ate Chinese then was super-craving sugar -- not much in the house, so I spooned some peanut butter with chocolate syrup. Sunday I went all-out, corn flakes in the morning, a diner BLT with onion rings for lunch, then a Superbowl party in the evening with ribs, brisket, my mac n' cheese, potato buns and cupcakes, not to mention beer. I ate conservatively by old-me standards, but still felt a mild ate-too-much-low by Sunday night which I hope to someday not have to experience every weekend.

Nice to be back to healthy eating after the weekend. Funny how after religiously always getting oil on my Subway hero, going without was barely noticeable, as the layers of vegetables they put on it makes it taste pretty moist anyway. I know the power of fat to transmit flavor, but the structural make u of the sandwich allows it to have a LOT of surface area in the mouth while being chewed, which actually helps transmit flavor efficiently, too.

AM SNACK: 8am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10:30am, steel cut oatmeal, 375 cal

PM SNACK: 1pm, momma salad, 100 cal

LUNCH: Subway 6" veggie patty hero on 9 grain wheat, cool ranch Doritos, 16oz diet coke, 650 cal
Ordered with just vinegar, not oil and vinegar, saved 200 cal without much of a difference in taste.

PM SNACK: 5:30pm, apple/carrot/kale/beet/ginger/cilantro juice, 130 cal

DINNER: 8:45pm, roasted flounder & broccoli, jodhpur lentils, pickle, poppa salad with homemade dressing, 7oz diet sprite, 780 cal
Another convenience packet o' lentils, this time in a cumin-laced yellow creamy sauce, though no cream, just the starch from the cooked lentils. The good thing about this meal is when I sat down to eat it, I put it on a large 12" dinner plate AND it still looked like a hell of a lot of food.

EVENING SNACK: 9:30pm, cheesy poofs, 300 cal

Woke up sore and hungry, which made me happy. Sore, because I pushed it a little on the weights and makes me one fraction of a step closer to doing a pull up, hungry, because I kept to the budget yesterday.

Today, I had a cavity filled, and could only eat with my left side in the evening, so I skipped salad and replaced it with some juice, and went soft and busted out a tetra box of tomato soup to go with some soft quinoa and tender boiled shrimp. Weird eating cheesy poofs on one side of my mouth was strange, didn't get the full taste.

AM SNACK: 8am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10:30am, fruit smoothie, 375 cal

LUNCH: 1pm, almond butter & grape jelly on whole wheat, momma salad, 7oz diet coke, 630 cal
Increased the almond butter by 1/3 in the sandwich, and made 1 sandwich instead of two, decreasing the amount of grain by half. I now appreciate how calorie dense a nut-butter sandwich can be. Bread: 200, almond butter: 300, jelly: 30, vegetables: 100. Now that works for a good balance of protein/fat/carbs and fiber bulk, especially for a packed on-the-go meal!

PM SNACK: 7:30pm, apple/carrot/beet/kale/cilantro/ginger juice, 135 cal

DINNER: 8:15pm, boiled shrimp, boxed tomato soup, quinoa, 750 cal
Soup was a little too salty, a little too tart. Very convenient but I know I can make much better. Still, a nice change of pace.

EVENING SNACK: 9:30pm, cheesy poofs, 300 cal


Had a nice day making a few meals I would not have made nearly as well if I didn't have c-school training. Usually I see my training come out in small and modest ways, but today I remembered, "oh yeah, I can cook just about anything decently!"

AM SNACK: 7:45am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 9:30am, steel cut oats, 375 cal

AM SNACK: 11:30am, momma salad, 100 cal

LUNCH: 1pm, tenderloin steak with pepper rub, spinach daal, roasted brussel sprouts, pickle, 7oz diet coke, 600 cal
Picked up a pepper-rubbed grass-fed medallion of beef tenderloin at the market, just to mix it up a bit. Damn, should of taken a picture of this meal. Each component was about 200 calories. Big 12" dinner plate filled with food to the edge. Huge pile of brussel sprouts, big silky brown/green pool of lentils overlapping the brussels, and a (relatively) teeny 4oz medallion of steak, which is the recommended serving size, about what fits in the palm of your hand. I guess taking pics of all my meals would be a bit too much, huh?

I do have to admit, I'm not a big steak guy but I enjoyed the hell out of this piece of meat. Cast iron pan preheat over high heat. Sprayed with canola. Let the meat come to room temp. Seared on each side about 2 minutes, let rest about 3 minutes. Used my parent's steak knife to slice it thin as I ate it, made it last through all the brussels & daal. Beautiful peppery crust, caramelized and mahogany brown. Center was reddish/pink, perfectly medium rare with a nice contrast of textures from the well-done on the outside to the edge-of-mushy unctuousness on the inside.

PM SNACK: 4:30pm, beef jerky, 60 cal

DINNER: 8:30pm, mango jalapeno chicken meatballs with shirataki noodles & sautéed mushrooms dressed in soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine, poppa salad with homemade dressing, 7oz diet sprite, 1010 cal
Busted out the wok for the first time in a while. Holy crap, if this had real full-calorie noodles, this would have been a 2000+ calorie meal! Used my c-school training to make this taste pretty good -- heated a tbsp of peanut oil with slices of fresh ginger and garlic, tossed the aromatics, cooked down the sliced mushrooms at high heat with a little salt, tossed in the par-boiled noodles, hit it with a tablespoon each of fish sauce, soy sauce, mirin wine, sesame oil and a small squirt of siracha, tossed in the heated spicy meatballs. The sweetness of the mango in the meatballs really helped the dish balance.

EVENING SNACK: 10:30pm, cheesy poofs, 300 cal


Had a good work out in the morning -- though I've been doing 5-second curled hangs from the pull up bar, I still can't do a pull up, so I've resumed an additional set of lowering myself slowly, which I did originally before I was strong enough to hang in place.

AM SNACK: 8am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10am, Fage full fat yogurt with almonds, agave & vanilla, 400 cal

LUNCH: 1:30pm, sardine & avocado on whole wheat toast, chana masala, momma salad, pickle 7oz diet coke, 815 cal

PM SNACK: 3pm, bite of school-made cookie, +/-20 cal
When a teacher and a stack of 3 year olds offer you a cookie from a batch they just made, and they all look at you with big, quiet, expectant eyes, you can't say, "no, I'm obsessively looking after my calorie intake, thank you." No, you choose the smallest bite on the plate and tell them how incredibly fantastic it was!

DINNER: 6:30pm, 2 slices pizza, poppa salad, +/- 800 cal

EVENING SNACK: 8pm, fritos, 300 cal
I have a long history with fritos, it was my first "diet" food back in high school and when I'm doing miles on the bike, it's a go-to energy snack. Unlike the cheesy poofs with 30+ ingredients, Fritos are just corn, corn oil and salt.


Fell asleep at 9pm, and Mili slept late while B took E to school, so I didn't wake until 8:30pm! What was that? Woke up feeling good, not sick or sad, so I guess I just needed it. My upper arms, front and back, as well as the corners of my back by my arms are unusually sore, which means...slow lowering from the curled position is definitely the way to help me to get to a real pull up!

AM SNACK: 8:30am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10:15am, heritage Os with whole milk, 315 cal

PM SNACK: 12pm, remnants of the momma salad, 45 cal

LUNCH: 1:30pm, baked hake loin, steamed string beans, chana masala, pi 7oz diet sprite, 510 cal cal
Hake is a fish very similar to cod, who knew? Got a big bag of frozen loins from Costco on a whim, getting tired of the flounder fillet flatfish vibes for now. Used an electronic thermometer to make sure the internal temp was right.

PM SNACK: 2:30pm, apple/carrot/kale/beet/ginger juice, 135 cal

DINNER: 6:15pm, sauteed chicken breast, asparagus, whole wheat Israelis cous cous, 7oz diet sprite, 940 cal

EVENING SNACK: 7:15pm, poppa salad with home made dressing, 150 cal
Rushed home to make dinner for everyone, forgot to eat salad. Had to finish it, as I'm not gonna eat it over the weekend and it would go bad. And I hope it prevents me from getting too hungry in the later evening.

EVENING SNACK: 8:15pm, Fritos corn chips, 7oz diet sprite, 255 cal
Held back a small amount of chips so I could hit my budget on the nose, yep, I'm nuts.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Monthly Weigh-in: Droppin' a dime o̶n̶ ̶y̶o̶ off my ass

Well, that's nice, four pounds down from before the unexpected gain last month. Here are my blunt thoughts, positive and negative. On the positive side,
  • Sugar finally controlled. No sweets 5 days a week. It was hard the first week or so, but cravings are now only popping up once or twice a week.
  • Much more raw veg. Taking to eating both momma and poppa salads daily during the week, on top of eating one or two cooked veg. Feels right.
  • More accurate counting, no rationalization of cheating like I did in December. Yes, my 3 readers, I am accountable to you.
  • Having the flu and then going straight into prepping for a colonscopy is not a diet plan. Flu also kinda low-lighted two weekends where usually I would have taken in 4000 extra calories each or so. I do not expect to replicate these results.
  • Last month's weigh-in was at the beginning of the week, while this one was at the end. I might still have had my weekend gorging in my system.
  • My free eating still needs to be reigned in a little on the weekends, as I don't feel good after them. I actually found some inspiration in a wackadoo weight loss guru, details below....
Regardless, I'm now more than half way to my first goal -- getting to 195, where according to the Body Mass Index calculation, I will magically go from "obese" to merely "overweight". Looking at the graph above, this is the time of year I'm either gaining weight or at my max, so if I can just get through another month or two with reasonable weight loss, it should get easier once cycling season is upon us, and I start taking calorie credits from those journeys.

Not gonna think too hard about how to improve, I guess just stay the course and try not to hurt myself on the weekends, keep trying to do a damn pull-up, and hopefully find my wife eating healthier. If I lose 1 lb in February, that'll be fine, though if I lose 5, I'll be happy. 

He's also about achieving 15-minute orgasms, ladies!
I heard an in depth interview with author Tim Ferriss on Mark Maron's WTF podcast, which usually features comedians and a few musicians. Sounds like a pretty interesting fellow with a certain over-the-top 
methodology that perhaps leads to hucksterism more than science, but  upon reading the basic details of his lose-20-lbs-in-30-days diet, I was a bit taken back by how much of it is what I've been doing to lose weight a tad more slowly. Italics are my commentary.
  • Rule 1: Avoid "white" carbohydrates (or anything that can be white). I already do this, but Ferriss takes it farther by cutting out most grains, whole or not. Judging by what I figured out when I was focused on glycemic load, this may not be totally koo-koo-bell.
  • Rule 2: Eat the same few meals over and over again. Again, I kinda do this, though he goes farther by eating pretty much the same thing every day, I'm more like eating a lot of the same things week to week.
  • Rule 3: Don't drink calories. This is pretty universal, sugared drinks are for fatties and diabetics, or those heading that way. Ferriss promotes two glasses of red wine a day, which from everything I know, sounds pretty counter-productive. I get the feeling that Ferriss is promoting what works for him personally, and is making a leap that it will work for most others.
  • Rule 4: Don't eat fruit. Yep, I don't eat much fruit either. Other than my once a week fruit smoothie, small amount of fruit in my vegetable juice, and the rare banana, I naturally stay away from fruit. Sugar is sugar is sugar, even if the packaging is full of water, fiber and nutrients. Vegetables are also full of water, fiber and nutrients, just not the insulin-revving sugar.
  • Rule 5: Take one day off per week and go nuts. Damn it, I kinda do that too! I take two days off per week. He described the arc of my free-eating weekends in the interview -- early on, one eats so badly on the free day that they get sick, and after one or two more times of eating and feeling horrible soon after, the free-eating days get reigned in simply because it sucks to feel so bad. I think it's not a bad idea to divide my free-eating weekends into one free-eating conservative day, like I'm still calorie restricting but not recording and thinking about it so much, and one free-eating damn-it-all-to-hell day....
Those are only the five reduced rules of a 900 book page obsessively dedicated to transforming the body. He goes into taking blood regularly to monitor his blood chemistry and wearing a glucose monitor, which is an IV to steadily tell you your blood sugar, and a device with a tube through the nose into the stomach, to constantly know calories. In short, nutso. The "4 Hour Body" refers to only having to work out 4 hours a week to get serious results, but c'mon, this method of dieting is 24 hours/6 days a week. Still, I only work out for about 2 hours a week with barbells (Ferriss is all about kettle bells, which does look intriguing) so again, I kinda do that already. Still, I don't need a charismatic guru who likes to go way beyond common sense.  Me, I think I'll continue to hoe my own road for now.

First full week back to health, really missed eating a lot of veg, weirdly enough. It kinda tastes good and definitely makes me feel good. Feel good that the weekly average is in budget, despite a day I went over, thanks to a big ol' slice of Costco pizza. Had a general physical this past week, blood pressure, lipids, pee, everything is better than it's been in years. I've always had mildly high blood pressure, mildly high cholesterol, etc etc, and they're all now verging on 100% perfect. Weird seeing my chest X-rays, my heart is totally normal sized, lungs clear and healthy. Oh, and the results of the colonoscopy were 100% clear, thanks for asking! 

Went to bed hungry, felt the sugar cravings as well as real hunger, but cheesy poofs would have broke the budget. Resisting non-simple carbs and fat is hella easier than ignoring the siren call of sugar.

AM SNACK: 8am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10:15am, steel cut oatmeal with butter, Brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt, 375 cal

PM SNACK: 1pm, baby carrots, 80 cal

LUNCH: 1:45pm, broiled sole, whole grain rice mix, sautéed spinach, 7oz diet coke, 890 cal

PM SNACK: 5pm, apple carrot kale ginger juice, 90 cal

DINNER: 8pm, double quarter pounder, 12 oz diet coke, 750 cal

Nice to wake up with honest, real hunger. Lets me know yesterday's count was close to accurate. Doctor visit for my annual reports good health, and an early preview of my weight indicates I might be on track to have lost the pounds I gained last month.

Pizza snack at Costco, nice because they post calorie counts, not so nice because one stinkin' slice of mediocre pie is 620 cal, about double what I would have guessed. I suspect it set me up for an over-budget night snack, despite having a healthy late dinner.

AM SNACK: 8am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 9:30am, whole Fage yogurt with almonds, agave and vanilla, 410 cal

LUNCH: 12:30pm, large green salad with homemade dressing and boiled shrimp, 310 cal

PM SNACK: 1:30pm, beef jerkey, 7oz diet coke, 120 cal

PM SNACK: 4:45pm, Costco pizza, 620 cal

DINNER: 8pm, chicken sausage, teff, spinach, pickle, 7oz diet sprite, 845 cal
Teff is one weird grain. Originally from Ethiopia and used in their injira bread, it looks like tiny dark brown seeds that cook up weirdly pasty, in a good way. Slightly nutty flavor, nice change up from the more granular grains.

EVENING SNACK: 10pm, cheesy poofs, 300 cal

Hungry a few times during the day, but never was too far from a snack or a meal. Did have some sugar-pangs in the later evening, and my mind started to rationalize why it would be ok to eat more, but fortunately I was able to recognize the rationalization pattern and squash it....and it helped knowing I was making up for going over budget on Tuesday!

AM SNACK: 7:45am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10am, fruit smoothie, 375 cal

PM SNACK: 12:45pm, momma salad, 100 cal

LUNCH: 1:45pm, chicken meatballs, shirataki spaghetti-style noodles, homemade tomato sauce, steamed string beans, 7oz diet coke, 530 cal
Huh, shirataki noodles are weird. I drained, rinsed, boiled for 90 seconds then drained and tossed in a dry hot pan for a few minutes -- according to Internet lore, this makes the noodles more pasta-like. was! Weird chewy texture, but not unpleasant. Looks like spaghetti, kinda tastes neutral, pleasant chew. If it were wheat pasta, this meal would have been over 1200 cal easy.

PM SNACK: 4:15pm, apple/carrot/kale/beet/ginger/cilantro juice, 85 cal

DINNER: 8pm, 1 stouffer's french bread pizza, poppa salad with homemade dressing, pickle, 7oz diet sprite, 590 cal

EVENING SNACK: 9pm, cheesy poofs, 300 cal

Good work out this morning, still tugging away at pull-ups. I feel stronger and my muscles seem bigger but I can still pull up only inches. Woke up hungry, but the work out really does quiet the drive for food.

AM SNACK: 8am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 10:45am, steel cut oatmeal, 375 cal

PM SNACK: 12:45pm, momma salad, 100 cal

LUNCH: 1:15pm, sardine and avocado on whole wheat, chana masala, pickle, 7oz diet coke, 660 cal
Packaged chickpeas, tasted slightly sweet but no sugar on the ingredients.

PM SNACK: 4:30pm, poppa salad with home made dressing, 150 cal

DINNER: 8pm, double quarter pounder, 16oz diet coke, 750 cal

EVENING SNACK: 10:30pm, cheesy poofs, 300 cal

Woke up hungry, got good news from the scale. Was able to stick to budget, while really looking forward to eating whatever this weekend. Before this past month, Friday evenings became indulgences, good that I was able to keep it relatively tight.

AM SNACK: 8am, iced green tea, 0 cal

BREAKFAST: 9:45am, kolon bloe with whole milk, 300 cal

PM SNACK: 12:30pm, momma salad, 100 cal

LUNCH: 1:30pm, chicken sausage, chana masala, steamed string beans, pickle, 7oz diet coke, 465 cal
Surprisingly low cal lunch, as the plate looked quite full of food.

PM SNACK: 5:15pm, apple/carrot/beet/kale/cilantro/ginger juice, 140 cal
Went a little too heavy on the cilantro. Eeee. I see why people call this stuff, "lawnmower juice."

PM SNACK: 5:45pm, poppa salad with new homemade dressing, 150 cal

DINNER: 6:45pm, grilled chicken, roasted asparagus, 7oz diet sprite, 580 cal
Also made rice and acorn squash, but just wasn't hungry enough to eat it at the time we were all sitting down.

EVENING SNACK: 8:30pm, Stouffer's French bread pizza, 430 cal

EVENING SNACK: 8:45pm, popcorn, +/-300 cal