Friday, June 24, 2011

Insanity of So You Think You Can Dance.

So I have to start with a small confession. I watch So You Think You Can Dance. Yup, I admit it. I enjoy the music (most of the time), and the creativity and the athleticism of the dancers. No necessarily the most macho thing in the world to admit to but there it is.

Anyway, last night on the show I saw something that sums up some of the stupidity and insanity of the conventional wisdom of the world. The segment started with a nutritionist going through the refrigerators of the dancers and criticizing them for the calorie count in the food they eat. Now if you've ever watched the show or even just seen a professional dancer, you know that in general they are EXTREMELY fit, lean and toned. Talking the them about calorie count is crazy. These people can pretty much eat what they want and stay fit. Granted, I would probably suggest that sugar isn't the best thing for them but they would burn that so fast that I wouldn't argue that the damage would be much more than negligible. But to suggest they should watch their calorie intake is just stupid. Why? Because they are fat and lazy? Weird stuff.

The next segment was another example of the insanity. They were pushing the Gatorate Fit drink and explaining why the sodium in the drink would help in their recovery especially in the case of heavy sweaters. Now that is probably the case but one of the reasons we have the obesity problem we have (especially in children and teens) is that drinks like Gatorade are associated with athletes and as a result are seen as super healthy. Well, I think we need to accept that athletes can consume food differently than the average person. They burn huge amounts of calories in their daily lives that most people do not. They can handle the intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates much better than most because they will burn those types of fuel almost faster than they can take them in. The average person does not.

My main objection to the common 'wisdom' about nutrition is that there is a 'one size fits all' diet for everyone. That was beautifully and horribly illustrated by suggesting to dancers who are extremely lean and fit that they should watch the calories. Sure, if they stop dancing for some reason, maybe they would have to look at their diets and adjust appropriately to their activity level, but while they are as active as they are, that's total crap. And to promote drinks like Gatorade as a recovery drink without doing the responsible thing and informing people that walking around the block does not require a recovery drink to re-hydrate and replace electrolytes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mice and Cancer

There has been a lot of buzz in the low carb/paleo community about a new mouse study. A pretty good write-up is here:

Essentially, these mice were genetically predisposed to cancer and were fed in two groups. A low carb-high protein group (55 % carb 23 % protein, 22 % fat) and a 'western' diet group (15% carbs, 25% fat, 60% protein). 

A couple interesting results:

1. By middle age half the mice eating the western diet had tumours, none of the low carb-high protein group did.

2. Only one mouse eating the western diet reached the normal life span. Half the other mice reached or exceeded their expected lifespan.

3. 70 % of the western diet mice developed cancer compared to 30% of those on the low carb diet.

4. And a little blow to calories in calories out, the researchers noticed that while the calories were kept the same, the mice on the western diet gained alot of weight.

Now this is a mouse study and has to be taken with a grain of salt but still interesting. 

Hyperlipid wrote a blog post that calls the researchers out on their flaws:

But regardless of the flaws, I think it does point to some interesting theories about diet consumption and cancer. Especially when you look at the extreme difference between the outcome in the groups. 

I would be interested in a followup that would use a diet that substituted fat for carb (as long as it wasn't trans-fat) and see if the results are similar.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New YouTube Video

Just wanted to share a YouTube video that a friend sent to me. Very interesting stuff. I do think that very very slowly the scientific and medical communities are starting to realize they got a lot wrong in terms of treating obesity and metabolic syndrome.

My N=1 Experiment The next Phase

So I've been thinking a lot lately about how far I've gone with the diet thing and where I should go from here. That last 15-20 pounds had not come off which was frustrating but when I consider that I was almost 300 pounds 8 years ago and I have kept the vast majority of the weight I lost off, I can't beat myself up about it.

So where do I go from here? I think at this stage I need to concentrate on something different health wise and I believe that thing is fitness. One thing I agree with Gary Taubes about (one of many things) is that excercise does not really help in terms of weight loss. I don't necessarily agree that it is only because it makes one hungry but also that the body can react to the slightly increased energy expenditure by both manifesting hunger to replace that energy and also by tiredness slowing the body down to conserve remaining energy.

However, I do believe that there are some basic things a fit, healthy person should be able to do. For example, I think a fit, healthy person should be able to run 5K. I can't do that right now. I don't have the endurance to do so, but I think that being able to do so is a sign of a basic level of fitness. I think being able to do a chin-up (just one) is a basic fitness thing. I've never been able to do one. I have been able to do a pull up (hands facing in) but not a chin-up (hands facing out, at least I hope I have that right).

So my focus over the summer (thank goodness it's summer!) will be to work on these things. One of the reasons I've picked these goals is that I think I have a significant amount of influence over whether or not I can achieve them. The last 15-20 pounds, well apparently my influence is not as great with those.

Obviously, I cannot ignore diet in this quest for fitness but I think for the most part I can go on auto-pilot in terms of that as long as I follow a few basic principles. To that end, I think I need to list the basic principles I will follow over the next few months, both in terms of exercising and diet. So here's a first go:

  1. Eat no grains or sugar. These things just have a bad effect on my body and hunger levels so they are out. 
  2. Tubers only once or twice a week and always leave some behind. I have been eating more tubers (mainly potato) lately and they don't seem to have a strong effect on my hunger. However, I do not want to overdo.
  3. Cheats will be allowed one meal every week and a half but must be minor (an extra tuber in a week or a small desert).
  4. Try to notice how a meal makes me feel immediately afterwards and an hour afterwards. Try to notice the effect that the quantity and type of food I eat has on my body and adjust my diet accordingly.
  5. When I do a resistance training workout, I will not do another resistance training workout until I feel fully recovered. I do have a tendency to go back while still very sore and stiff. I think I need to listen to my body and instincts more in that regard.
  6. When I do a run, same thing. 
  7. Walk as much as possible. My wife and I have been walking after dinner and on weekends. It's great for us to bond as a couple, and not strenuous so even if I am recovering from a workout, it is possible. 
  8. Try something new at least once or twice a month. that may be a new recipe or going kayaking. Something slightly outside of my comfort zone but still fun.
  9. I will not weigh myself until September. I haven't weighed myself in over a month and frankly, I like it. The weight may or may not come off with this. Instead I'll try to notice other, more qualitative changes. Pants fitting better, mood improving, etc.
  10. Get outside in the sun when possible. 
  11. Have fun, enjoy all of this!
So there we go, that's what the next 2-3 months are going to look for me. I think I'm going to like this new phase. Not exactly a maintenance thing but definitely concentrating on enhancing my health rather than trying to recapture it. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Am I Done Yet?

So this has been on my mind for a few weeks now. When do I know if I'm as slim as I can be given the current dietary interventions I have made? I have been plateaued between 210 and 215 pounds for a very long time. I know I can get below that below if I go on a fat fast but I don't know that that is my favorite thing. Not that I don't think it's healthy in the short run but that loss tends to be a bit fleeting.

So is this level of weight the best I can hope for unless I add exercise into the mix in a bigger way than I have been. I suspect the answer is yes. I could go much lower calorie I suppose, but I don't believe that is the healthiest option. No telling that the body won't pull as much energy from protein to make up the deficit than it would from fat.

 I've been trying to get the exercise thing going for a while now but between gout, travel, and general malaise due to the longest fucking winter ever, I haven't been able to get any momentum. I am going to try again this week.

BTW, I have pretty much stopped weighing myself too. I have a love hate (mostly hate) relationship with my scale. I love it when the weight moves lower, hate it otherwise. I don't really need the aggravation any more.

So what does that mean for my n=1 experiment. It's still on. I'll check in on my weight in a few months For now, I'll check in hopefully weekly on the blog to describe what I am doing exercise wise and how I am feeling in general (how my clothes are fitting).

Wish me luck!

Cholesterol Numbers

So I had my first encounter with the mainstream medical establishment in regards to cholesterol today. I got the results of my cholesterol tests and here they are with conversions

Serum Cholesterol: 7.07 mmol/l  = 273.3952 mg/dl
HDL: 1.95 mmol/l  = 75.40603 mg/dl 
LDL: 4.81 mmol/l  = 186.00155 mg/dl
Triglycerides 0.65 mmol/l  = 57.57307 mg/d

Cholesterol/HDL: 3.6
Triglycerides/HDL: 0.33 
LDL/HDL: 2.5

So the doctor looks at this and says my cholesterol is high and my ldl is high and I can either go on drugs or introduce lifestyle changes.

My objections: 

My ratios are great. Total cholesterol/hdl ideally should be 3.5 or less but at least less than 5.0. Check. Triglycerides/HDL should be < 0.437. My ldl/hdl should be less than 3.5:1. My triglycerides/HDL should be 0.24 or greater.

Secondly, they do not measure which pattern (A or B) the LDL is in. And I believe that if the triglycerides are low (which mine are) that it is more likely that I have LDL pattern A which is relatively benign.

So anyway, I will go on with what I am doing except for one thing. I have been ridiculously inconsistent with exercise. If in 6 months I get a similar result, I'll insist on a VAP test to check the type of LDL before I go on any drug.

My CarbSane experience

So I got into a bit of a 'discussion' on the Weighty Matters site with a woman who calls herself CarbSane. It was essentially a lesson in arguing with a zealot. Now I will admit, I'm low carb biased. But CS, is a strange one to deal with. Argue a different interpretation of a study and she will sidestep, or berate.

My point in commenting in the first place was to say that the initial commenter was wrong in calling Gary Taubes a snake oil salesman. He is not trying to sell anything other than his book and frankly he could have made more money writing a diet book based on some stupid premise (eat a grapefruit and mars bar at every meal and you'll lose weight) and made more money. Instead, he researched a wide-ranging topic for 5 or more years and came up with a very intelligent book.

Argue if you want with his conclusions, that's fine. But the commenter's insistence that he is a con man makes little sense. A con man tells people what they want to hear. Sure the low carb community wanted to hear what Taubes said but it's a far smaller community than the mainstream.

Personally, I think Taubes makes a fairly compelling case that carbohydrates, especially refined grains and sugars are more important to watch if you want to lose weight than calories. And my own experience of losing 30 pounds WITHOUT counting calories convinces me that he is correct. Also, the studies that I have looked at show that not only does the low carb calorie unrestricted diet result in as good or better weight loss than other diets, it also seems to improve a lot of other health markers (hdl cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure) again as well or better than other diets.

Do I think that means someone could eat a 5000 calorie diet a day and not gain weight as long as the carb count is very low? I don't know, but I think there is reason to believe that IF you could get someone to eat that much without raising increasing the absolute amount of carbs, it may be possible. The point that Taubes is making is not that you can eat 5,000 calories a day, it's that you can eat as much as you want (ie. to satiety) and not gain weight and possibly lose weight if you restrict the carbs. My personal experience has shown that to be the case.