About Dieting

I’m posting this blog due to recent changes I’ve made in how I diet and exercise, and its positive effect that has had on me.  I  am more alert, able to get by with less hours of sleep, and I have reduced my visits to the gym.  I have also noticed I have difficulty gaining weight, it’s impossible the way I’m living now.   The first time I did something similar I lost 25 pounds, that was about a year ago.  All I did was reduce sugar drinks to one a day and reduce portions of carbs, but that was before I decided to disavow sugar.   Over the past month or so I’ve been exposed to some research and insights on foods in modern US society that I found rather sobering. I’m going to share my understanding of it, which will be oversimplified for your readability and for my own understanding (I hate Chemistry).  There are some links at the end of this post which I encourage you to explore.

 

Soooo…….The problem with people’s health today is sugar. Processed carbs, and sedentary lifestyle pile on.  But sugar is fucking destructive.

 

Point blank, sugar is poisonous for our body. Am I making the point yet? 🙂 Too much sugar is the reason for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and the preponderance of other degenerative disease. By too much sugar, I mean any sugar above what is found naturally, say like sugar in an apple or whatever sugar would be in a cup of milk. You would be surprised by how much sugar is added in food products these days, it is in almost everything. For reference, 4 grams of sugar is one teaspoon of sugar.  A glass of milk without any sugar added already has 1.5 teaspoons of sugar in it.  A can of coke has at least 8 teaspoons of sugar (a glass of fresh orange juice has more sugar than that). Sugar consumption is like putting logs of wood in a  fire.  It stokes up your appetite.  Sugar is also addictive, try going one week without any sugar. Usually, people will get cravings, which is not unlike a cocaine addiction.  I find it scary enough that when I have children, I’m not going to bring them up on sweet sugars and candies. Well I’m exaggerating. Sort of, but think about it…..

Addiction


 

The twin devil of sugar is processed carbohydrates. Donuts. Bagels. Danish pastries. All that stuff is nutritionless, and something important dawning on me is that metabolically, you are basically eating sugar when you eat refined and processed carbohydrates. The body converts carbohydrates to sugar. To be more specific, the culprit here is grains.  Over on one of the sites I read regularly, Mark’s Daily Apple, there was a great summary of the destruction that sugar and carbohydrates play on our bodies, from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/diabetes/ :

“If we go back 10,000 or more years, we find that our ancestors had very little access to sugar – or any carbohydrates for that matter. There was some fruit here and there, a few berries, roots and shoots, but most of their carbohydrate fuel was locked inside a very fibrous matrix. In fact, some paleo-anthropologists suggest that our ancestors consumed, on average, only about 80 grams of carbohydrate a day. Compare that to the 350-600 grams a day in the typical American diet today. The rest of their diet consisted of varying degrees of fat and protein. And as fibrous (and therefore complex) as those limited carbohydrate foods were, their effect on raising insulin was minimal. In fact, there was so little carbohydrate/glucose in our ancestor’s diet that we evolved four ways of making extra glucose ourselves and only one way of getting rid of the excess we consume!”  Mark Sisson, Marks’ Daily Apple

Conventional wisdom assumes that “whole” grains are better, but so far I’ve reduced all carbohydrates drastically, I’ll see how that works.  The mediterrenean diet of the Greeks, Italians and French seems to work fine for them, but they eat good oils  (olive oil), lots of fresh vegetables, NATURAL cheeses, WHOLE foods and are not sedentary, plus their portions are smaller than what is typically served in the USA.  Nonetheless, based on what I have studied, I’m looking to eliminate traditional carbohydrates-at least grains-to very minimal intake, like basically a small serving every couple of days maximum.

Also harmful is eating food products instead of actual food.  An example is bacon bits (which doesn’t even have bacon) is a food product.  Bacon is a food.  Melted cheese on Nachos is a food product, but brie cheese is an actual food.

 

All of these problems are compounded by the reality that, too many of us do nothing but sit on our asses.  This is perpetuated by the work schedule of the majority of  westerners who work conventional 9-5 jobs in offices, then we go home and watch TV or play video games…..the combination between that and bad eating habits is deadly.   You know how cows and pigs are fattened? By being overfed, and sedentary–I’m not being smart here, that’s literally how they fatten and prepare animals for consumption.

If you look at overweight people most of the time they are eating too much sugar and carbs.   Avatar has made $2Billion to date, I shudder thinking of how many big combo cups of soda (2 cans of soda which is almost 20 teaspoons of sugar) and nacho’s drenched melted cheese were consumed at viewings.  It makes perfect sense that there is a healthcare epidemic.  What is driving my shift in this area is that I do not wish to participate in that epidemic.  It’s with the aim of living longer, increasing my vitality, and having better energy.  This leads me to state two things things that I’m convinced of–first of all, it’s not just about calories.  Secondly, “diets” don’t work, period.   I’m not on a “diet” and I’m not “dieting”.

 

You take two people of the same weight, height and let’s assume they do very little physical activity.  The first person eats 1,700 calories a day of Pizza, mcdonalds, bagels, chocolate cake, starbucks coffees, and don’t forget the daily glass or three of soda. Then for the second person have them consume 2500 calories in the form of salads, boiled eggs, minimally sweetened tea, ham, steak, a mango and some walnuts.   Who is better off? You compare them in two months and the person eating less calories composed of processed sugars will look flabbier. Evidently when people say they’re “on a diet” what they’re actually doing is just eating less quantities of the wrong stuff, or worse essentially starving themselves.

 

If one does slim down just through starvation, they’ll be skinny-fat, which means slim at first glance, but you still have a beer belly or manboobs.  Or that if someone pokes your shoulder, it’s soft and pudgy. Many girls look like that out of a misplaced skepticism towards weightlifting.  Just reducing calories to an arbitrary figure also means you are starving oneself which is not sustainable-remember sugar/carbs, stoke hunger. Another word of caution, at some point your metabolism WILL slow down.  Look at Elvis or Babe Ruth, both ballooned in their later years. When people hit their early 30s to early 40s, they often experience sudden changes in their body in weight, composition, cholesterol levels, heart health, etc.  This is because our bodies are not like they were in our 20s, and also because there has been enough time for the mistreatment to compound. Some  individuals like Lamar Odom of LA Lakers or Cinco Occo of the Cincinatti Bengals have uncommen genes, where they can eat McDonalds and junk food everyday like they’ve both admitted to (though lets see what predicament they are in when they’re in their mid forties). The message here is if we are not watching our health now it WILL catch up with us eventually.

Primal food

So with an aim of maximizing my general wellness, I have virtually eliminated carbohydrates from my diet. Pasta, bread, cereal, etc. I’m also not eating beans and legumes regularly. I don’t do soy. I’ve cut it all out. I eat nuts, meats, fresh fruits, dairy and vegetables. Any carbohydrates I get are secondhand are from fruits, cheeses, vegetables, etc. I also try to the best to reduce artificial ingredients and preservatives (MSG, Maldextorin, Sodium nitrates, modified startch, etc). I do drink coke zero and zero calorie drinks though, so I’m not perfect by any means. Given the choice between 5 calorie drink of anti-oxidant vitamin water and a glass of orange juice, I’m taking the vitamin drink, based on what I now know about sugar (the counterargument would be to go with the orange juice as it’s natural and our bodies are prepared for it ). Mind you, I’m not a Nazi about it. Initially, I had a “cheat” day but then I feel that’s the wrong frame to come from, it implys that by maintaining optimum eating habits I’m somehow denying myself. So what I do instead is I’ll induldge once in a while, or based on the situation. Example is I recently spent a few days at my friends place with his family during a blizzard. We were snowed in for a couple of days. Had a great time, lots of bonding, and lots of communal eating on the table (they’re French). I didn’t start dictating what I could or couldn’t eat, I just went with the flow, ate the cakes, etc etc, GUILT-FREE. 80/20 rule. However, I’m able to do that because I believe I’ve trained my body accept new dieting habits, I was able to switch right back after the sleepovers and resume my normal eating patterns no problem. See that's another thing I want to stress, if dieting becomes a painstaking burden it defeats the purpose. No need to count calories once you eliminate the carbs and sugars. Just eat at will. Odd thing is I find myself able to skip meals sometimes—without torturing myself, but because I’m not hungry. Let me backtrack on the “pain” and “burden”…for the initial month or so, yes there’s some transition period as your body adjusts to no carbohydrates – remember I was, we all are, humans are basically addicted to sugar. So it’s like a drug addict going off of drugs cold, there'll be some withdrawal angst and restlessness initially. It’s become a physiological addiction, so the first month is difficult but once I went through with it all as well and I feel healthy as ever, and better every day. Great excuse to post a photo of one of the hottest celebrities! No but really, looking like Brad Pitt in Fight Club or Jessica Biel is not difficult. And this is not about vanity, by the way.


Speaking of health, it’s important to note the difference between fitness and health. A ballet dancer in her early-20s might have a good figure, be able to stretch and contort her bodies in all sorts of ways.   She’d be pretty fit.  However, she eats too many sweets, and she smokes too. She isn’t living healthily, and I woulnd’t characterize her as healthy. You take an 85 year old grandfather, he takes a 30 minute walk every other day and is able to do some gardening reasonably frequently, while he is eldery, he is not constantly in and out of the hospital or taking tons of prescription pills. That eldery man is fit AND he’s healthy. Being healthy, and being fit is different. Fitness is often just basically how one looks or how athletic they are.  Being healthy is also how one FEELS, and how well their body is functioning.

That’s why it isn’t all about exercise. Exercise without diet is is like having the icing without the cake.  Also, too often exercise enthusiasts overtrain, and I was guilty about that, two hour sessions in the gym.  Running for an hour. The idea is not to pound away endlessly plus once again, that strategy wouldn’t work after your mid-thirties anyway, there’s a reason most athletes are done by their late 30s. What I found was once I changed by eating habits, fat started melting off of me up until the point where I’m now just maintining a steady bodyweight effortlessly. Yes initially, much of it was motivated by vanity and looking good. Now, I’m not interested in bodybuilding.  I go to the gym for optimal health.  I don’t do endless cardio any more just 20-30 minutes once in a while and if its warm I do a few sprints outdoorsinstead. I plan on taking occasional walks, just to be out get some fresh air and contemplate. I spend very little time in the gym, I hit the weights just twice a week, and each time for 45 minutes. What I like is that I anticipate that this will be sustainable when I’m in my 30s, 40s and beyond-once you have kids, I presume it is more challenging to remain be a ‘gym rat’. You end up losing weight and improving your physique anyway, as a side effect of all these healthy changes, even though that isn’t  the goal (and unless you’re a supermodel or bodybuilder looks alone shouldn’t be your goal, because what will you do when you’re 40? Get plastic surgery or inject yourself with stereods?.  

Much of what I have shared contradicts conventional wisdom, and went against much of what I myself beleived,  but research is increasingly catching up.  For example, Fat is NOT bad for us, we can’t just exercise away bad eating, sugar is an addiction, etc.  Still I’d say go ahead  and verify.  At the end of the day just think a little more about the food industry, what you’re eating and most of all listen to your own body and empower yourself, make your own decision…..

 

Conventional Wisdom

 

Some good resources to explore:

 

Note: My use of terminology to describe people’s weight, are not intended to be judgemental, but rather are used as descriptive terms.

 

 

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