Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Following Your Excitement

You are reading this because you or someone you love is looking to make positive steps towards health and happiness.

Tim Ferris' 4 Hour Workweek claims that boredom is the true opposite of success (not failure).  Excitement, then, is a synonym for success.  It's pretty close.  Think of the things that excite you.  This is more tangible than focusing on what you think might be successful!

Here is a short list of things I find exciting:
  • Jumping from high places into water.
  • Tubing the Comal
  • Being at the "top of the world" at places like Enchanted Rock.
  • Beach trips with my wife, Tomie.
  • Fighting a good fighter, like Patrick Rogers, without pads.
And since I'm a video game designer, some non-IRL moments:
  • Those "really important" rolls in a Dungeons and Dragons game.
  • Player versus player combat in games like Meridian 59.
  • NBA Jam 98's half court dunks.
Stess is a killer, but excitement is the remedy.  Our hunter-gatherer ancestors definitely had less stress from day-to-day thanks to a minimalist lifestyle.  A few hours a week gathering food left plenty of time for recreation.  But (this is the kicker) they also had more healthy excitement.  Hunting, sparring, spear-throwing, archery... all in a day's play!

What will your next "half-court dunk" be?  What exciting, "impossible" things are you capable of?  Which of your stresses are self-imposed?

Friday, November 25, 2011

What We Think Is Food

Somewhat of a Manifesto:

In his talk at the Ancestral Health Symposium, Andreas Eenfelt mentioned that he thought that the Low-Carb movement and the Paleo movement had some lessons they could learn from one another.  In particular, he mentioned that the low-carbers would do well to focus on "Real Food".

I know that what I regard as "food" has changed a great deal since March.  This, I think, is the largest key to success with diet.  It's one thing to change our behaviors, but to change our views will have longer-lasting results.

Running for 2 hours on a treadmill, then rewarding yourself with cake is sure route for failure.  Cake becomes a reward for exercise, something greater than food, while exercise becomes some form of penance we must pay.

Likewise we reward ourselves for working hard at our jobs, for surviving another year, for anniversaries, for Christmas.  We work very hard, and often have little to show for it at the end of the day.  We may have what Dr. Lane Seabring calls Insufficient Reward Syndrome.  

We take our pills, our vitamins, and we work out so that we can be healthy.  We see these things as a way to "pay the piper."  We do these things and file them under "work hard" so that later, we tell ourselves, we can "play hard."

What if we worked out a few times a week, and each session was an invigorating hedonistic experience?  Paleo life has taught me to enjoy each of my 20 minute workouts each week.  I have started to look forward to my weekly sprinting session.  I wish I had more time during the day to soak up the sun, or to hike in nature.

It is also important to enjoy each meal on a hedonistic level.  We are confident enough to skip a meal rather than compromise.   We experience real hunger rather than blood sugar crashes.  We eat real food (veggies, fats, lean meats and organ meats) and regard food as being a singularly good experience.  We shun tuna-and-mayo on wheat toast and eat red-meat and veggies cooked in real butter with gusto.  We refuse tasteless Fiber-One bars, and other "healthy" products which are overflows from wood, soybean, and corn industries.

We don't reward ourselves with food, because we already enjoy the full experience of cooking, eating, exercising and occasionally, fasting.  

So, for those of you not yet with me. Take a leap of faith and put down the egg-whites.  It's time to start living.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wall of Shame - Jason's Deli

"Free" overtime food, courtesy of work, has given me a unique excuse to branch out and look at various restaurants and their food selections.

Some places have surprisingly informative "allergy" menus.  This seems to be the easiest litmus test for whether a restaurant serves actual food or not.

Jason's Deli gets my first (and probably not last) Wall of Shame entry.

Many of their potatoes feature a "natural buttery blend" -- which I find horrifying.

Reading through their allergy info reveals that basically everything on the menu contains soy.  It's incredible, actually, that a kids' "organic" PB&J contains soy.  I've sent (now open) feedback via their site (and now my own) as follows:

I have looked at your allergen info and almost all of your products appear contain soy and wheat.

I don't understand why the Reuben, PB&J,  and a "Better Choice Roast Beef" contain soy (to name a few).
A texas chili spud contains gluten.
It seems all your chili is padded with both soy and wheat.
Why is soy included in almost every sandwich, and why does your chili contain both soy and wheat?

We can do better than this.

When Taco Bell tried to pass off soy and wheat filler as "meat" we nailed them to the wall, but Jason's Deli has the feel of a place much more upscale and healthy.

After scrubbing through their menu, I came up with the "The Big Chef" salad as the only soy and gluten free option on the menu (with olive oil and balsamic on the side).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Austin 360 goes Paleo

Austin 360's on point with this article, which gives a great review of the Paleo Diet and lifestyle.  

News coverage has been really spotty on this topic, with sources being as likely to ask crufty old nutritionists what is effective rather than looking at the huge group of people who've tried and thrived on this way of life.

Austin's always been open minded, but still, this coverage makes me happy to be an Austinite.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Overeating: Leptin and Ghrelin, meet Yin and Yang.

This post will have some big, strange and scary words, but it could save your life.

In the spirit of Robb Wolf, I'll start with a short nod to brevity and jump to the conclusion.

Get plenty of sleep.
Eat a lot of low-cal veggies.
Avoid fructose.

Now for the science:

My last post was a rather dense video.  I wish to take some concepts mentioned in it and explain them well,  so that we all may understand them better.

A 2004 study doesn't do so well at predicting weight loss for high-fat diets, but it does do a "strictly the facts" take on leptin and ghrelin release.  In short, ghrelin stimulates hunger, while leptin satisfies it.  

This doesn't mean that ghrelin is bad or evil.  It has a vital role to play.  For one, it stimulates growth hormone, and it plays a role in dopamine production. It is also thought to play a role in our lung development as we grow in the womb.  You need ghrelin, but you want it at certain levels throughout the day.

But ghrelin makes us hungry, and since a lot of you guys are looking to pack on 20 to 30 extra pounds, you're wanting to ask:

"Rusty, how can I sabotage my body's hormone balance and gain lots of weight by spiking ghrelin and making myself feel super hungry?"

First off, get inadequate sleep.  Sleep deprivation produces ghrelin and lowers leptin, which makes you hungry.

Secondly, eat tons of fructose, which is found in table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and fruit.  While complex carbs like potatoes produce leptin and suppress ghrelin (making us feel full), fructose hangs out in our liver and thwarts our body's best attempts to say "enough is enough."

So lay off the agave nectar, folks.  

Our second hormone, leptin, is some great stuff.  It inhibits our appetite, and it's produced by our fat cells.  It's our body's own bullet-proof self-defense mechanism. That's right folks, the fatter we get, the less hungry we get.  Leptin is even being studied as another route to treat diabetes. 

Once again, I know what you are thinking.

"Rusty, how can I sabotage my body's hormones by lowering my leptin levels and make myself feel super hungry?"

Get inadequate sleep. This will lower your leptin levels.
Exercise fanatically. You know those chunky folks on the elliptical for 2 hours a day, let them be your new role-model.  
Be a dude and have lots of testosterone. Man-children produce less of the stuff.
Skip 4 or 5 meals in a row.

But there's a catch.

Like insulin, heavier people tend to develop resistance to leptin.  Out bodies tune out the super-high levels, so we become less sensitive to our own satiety signals.

Here are some tips for increasing your sensitivity to this appetite blunting hormone:

Avoid fructose.  This stuff causes all sorts of issues.  That's right, put down the banana and the RC Cola. You'll live without them.

Eat "real" vegetables.  Eating 2 pounds of kale and another pound of spinach might not sound like fun, but low-energy foods seem to help.  (Why else would a salad make us feel full?)  This seems to be one of the key factors that Atkins missed.

Well, good luck!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

Sugar: The Bitter Truth is a rather long lecture on sugar (specifically fructose) intake and the cascade of health concerns related to it.

It covers the following questions, and is one of the the most important (free) lectures of our decade on nutrition.

What do the Japanese Diet and the Atkins Diet have in common?

Why did the suggestion to reduce fat intake from 40% of total calories to 30% of total calories cause so many health problems?
What is the Coca Cola conspiracy?
Is there a link between sugar intake and obesity?
Is the last 30 years of nutrition based on Ansel Key's study wrong?
How do "AGEs" (Advanced Glycation End-products) brown steak and damage your arteries?
How does fructose disrupt ghrelin and leptin signalling and make us overeat?
How does fructose, glucose and ethanol metabolism occur within the liver?
How can fructose consumption consumption raise your blood pressure and cause gout?
Why do they put HFCS in sports drinks?
Why is a high sugar diet actually a high fat diet?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why Atkins Hurt My Stomach

FODMAPs sounds like a  bad RPG setting, but it's actually a crazy acronym for "fermentable – oligo- di- and monosaccharides and polyols".  I have to give a shout-out to Kurt Harris for posting this, since it explains why I had some GERD type symptoms on Atkins.  

These FODMAP foods ferment in your colon and can cause big problems.  It's good to know if you're having digestive issues, since reducing these should be an easy tweak.  Here's the list from Harris' article, paraphrased:

Diabetic sugar-alcohols, fructose rich foods and drinks, onions, jerusalem artichokes, wheat, tomatoes, apples, peaches, pears, apples, watermelon etc. 

I was eating a ton of onions and sugar-alcohols on Atkins, and onions in particular seemed to give me fits.  It never seemed like I was digesting them well.  I thought that this was some personal digestive issue, since I limited intake of all of these with the exception of tomatoes and onions, this is no longer a big issue for me.  

It's a good thing to keep in mind, folks!

Zevia Review

Zevia, an "all natural soda" is sweetened with stevia and caffeine free.

Mark Sisson has already done one heck of a breakdown on stevia.  In short, stevia looks to be a better alternative to other sweeteners and it may even have a net therapeutic effect.

For diabetics and dieters who need an occasional soda fix, or miss the comfort of the carbonation, this looks to be the a good product.  It uses erythritol as a medium for the stevia, which is probably pretty benign.  I had two tonight, so If anything funny pops up I'll post an update.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

TAG, you're it Triglycerides!

My triglycerides are good!  But what does this mean, and what do they do?  

Take a bottle of canola oil in one hand and a stick of butter in another hand and hold them up?  Go ahead, I'll wait.  These are triglycerides.  

"Eeewwww.... I'm never going to eat this stuff, it'll get in my blood," you say.  Now wait just one minute, Cochise.

Even Wikipedia will tell you that TAG's are going to get jacked up from eating lots of carbs, not from eating lots of delicious animal fat.  Having lived my life for the last six months, I can tell you with certainty that mine would be lots higher if animal fats, butter, or coconut oil (add some bell-peppers and onions and that's supper) were the enemy.

Cholesterol is kind of a common currency of your cells.  It's a phenomenal substance responsible for lots of important hormones, cell repair and a big part of what you're brain is made of.  You're cells excrete these little guys all the time as a sort of energy transport system.  

Triglycerides are broken down for fatty acids (used by your heart and other muscles) and glycerol (which your brain can use).  If you eat less than about 60% of your daily caloric needs comes from carbs, you'll use this handy transport mechanism for energy.  Otherwise, you start seeing some problems.  

If you are in a mild state of ketosis from time to time (e.g. you keep under 100 grams of carbs most days), you'll burn through these TAGs and use your own fat cells for energy to boot.  Sorry everyone, Atkins was mostly right.  Ketosis should be an important part in your week, but it's not necessarily important to stay there all the time. Just make sure to use your fat cells every week and to get some starch one or two days a week to keep the whole system functioning.  

This is an important topic so I'm up for comments, corrections, and questions.  

The Results are In

Bloodwork is mostly in range.

Total cholesterol 156. (should be less than 200)
Triglycerides 66 (should be less than 150)  <-- this kicks butt.
HDL 35 (should be more than 39)
LDL 106 (should be less than 100 "optimal" or 130 "still healthy)
LDL/HDL Ratio 3.02 (less than 3.55)

According to a H/W chart I just found online, I'm still 86 pounds overweight, so I'm considering these number a victory.  167 lbs sounds like a strangely trim weight to me, 230 is my next target so I'll update how odd 167 still sounds when I get there.

I'm currently reading 4 Hour Body and loving it.

Coming soon... my guide to triglycerides.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why Diets Work (Paleo Edition)

A friend and coworker gets credit for tonight's article for a simple, dubious question.

"Why are such different diets successful for different people?"

The answer isn't obvious, but it is simple.  Success has different criteria.  Someone with food allergies will have different priorities than someone simply trying to lose weight.

My main priorities are weight-loss, sustainability and gut health, and I chose the Paleo Diet.  

The Paleo Diet seems to have demonstrable success in the following parameters:
  • Food Allergies 
  • Auto-Immunity 
  • Brain Function Disorders
  • Gut Health 
  • Weight Correction
  • Increased Insulin Sensitivity 
  • Cortisol Correction
  • Joint Health
  • Sustainability
  • Blood Lipids and Triglycerides
The Atkins Diet, and other Very Low Carb Diets by comparison does quite well on several of these points, such as helping epilepsy and insulin sensitivity, but isn't geared for food allergies as much.  Some of those Atkins-brand candy bars really blew up my stomach thanks to freaky sugar alcohols and other Frankenfoods.  (But I did lose weight).

Why is this type of analysis important?

First, people will do better if they set goals.  Goals require choosing metrics for success.  Example:  I want to lower my fasting blood sugar, so I will try the Paleo Diet, limit carb intake, and test this in 2 months.

This leads to the second point.  These points are testable.  As this study shows, the Paleo Diet seems to out perform the Mediterranean Diet at increasing insulin sensitivity; this suggests a mechanistic cause that could help you accomplish that goal.

The USDA's MyPyramid plan, on the other hand, has a chief stated goal to "educate people about the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans". 

MyPyramid even claims that the "Stone Age Diet" is healthy because it is "low in fat"; this is false.  We have no evidence that fats from wild, healthy animals is anything but healthy even in large doses, and most of us Stone-Agers like a nice fatty chunk of grass-fed steak.

It is healthy because it optimizes the above parameters, but none of those are related to fat intake.  

Think of what vectors you wish to improve and try to make an eating and lifestyle plan that accomplishes them.  Prioritize these vectors and set up realistic and frank methods for testing whether your plan is working.  

Gluten, My Last Meal and a Blood Test

Behold!  Gluten!

Last night, I ate a gluten rich meal anticipating a gluten sensitivity blood test.  I figure if it comes back positive this will be my "last meal".

I didn't experience any of my classic symptoms after the meal, but I did have a bit of elevated heart-rate and trouble sleeping.

Pictured above, Whataburger Patty Melt and Onion Rings (Gluten/TransFat Double Attack)