Happy Birthday!

3 09 2011

Today is Maria Lucimar Pereira’s birthday.  She was born in 1890 and that makes her 121 years old today.  She’s presumably lived in the Amazon jungle in Brazil her entire life eating a very traditional diet the whole time.  According to a Huffington Post article, she’s been eating “a diet of fresh fish, banana porridge, root vegetables, and grilled meat, but she also avoids salt, sugar and processed foods.”  A BBC article says, “with regular dishes including grilled meat, monkey, fish, the root vegetable manioc and banana porridge, and no salt, sugar or processed foods.”  Some other article I read mentioned some other root vegetable.  The articles tend to mention the lack of sugar and “processed foods”, without acknowledging that making a porridge out of bananas is a process and that bananas have sugar in them.  They say nothing about grains or legumes which have been a part some humans’ diets for thousands of years.  Presumably, she hasn’t been eating them, and there’s no doubt she’s been living without the oils produced from these plants in factories that are a major part of the Standard American Diet (SAD).

This all fits in well with the paleo diet idea that humans have adapted to eating certain foods (wild animal meat, fish, root vegetables, and fruit) and are ill-equipped to deal with foods that have only been around for 10,000 or less years (added sugar, grains, seed oils, and dairy).  For some, this is the prescription for what we should eat.  For others, it’s just the starting assumption.  I like that approach, and if that sounds good to you, check out the Archevore Diet by Dr. Kurt Harris.

The major media news articles don’t really get much into the specifics of Ms. Pereira’s diet.  They spend at least as much energy focusing on Guinness World Records needing more proof to declare her the oldest living person in the world.  I’d like someone to go spend a few days with her, documenting her eating habits before she kicks off.  I also wonder what her great-great-great-grandchildren are eating.


Why do you hate fat people?

17 05 2011

I talk about being fat like it’s a bad thing (as if it weren’t) and this is what people ask me.  I don’t hate them, but I don’t generally like them because I don’t like to look at them.  Obesity seems to generate a response in my head similar to that of seeing someone who is deformed, or if they’re super obese – to gore.  To some extent, I hold it against them, as I’ve believed for most of my life that people who are fat are responsible for their own state.  I actually know better, but I still want to blame them.  Their appearance offends me and I want it to be their fault.  I want it to be a character flaw, but I know it’s not.  They are not fat because they are lazy.  They are not fat because they are gluttons.  They are fat because they’ve been eating the Standard American diet long enough for their long enough that they’ve overwhelmed their metabolic system, and if they’re overeating, it’s because their bodies are making them do so.

For the majority of my life, I’ve been one of those people who can eat anything and not accumulate any body fat.  I was in the Army several years ago, went to Basic Training at age 18.  While some of my platoon-mates lost 30 or 40 pounds in the eight weeks we were there, I gained 17 and still showed no sign of body fat.  I ate voraciously in that time because I was extremely scared that I might lose weight, which I could not afford to do.  When I went in, I weighed 148 pounds at 5’11” and was fairly muscular, at least above the waist.  After Basic when my activity level had slowed down, I learned that I couldn’t eat as much any more.  I’m not saying I learned that I couldn’t get away with eating just as much, but that I literally couldn’t eat the same amount of food as I had been accustomed to.  I remained lean for years.

Since the beginning of puberty, I would complain about constantly being hungry and having difficulty in maintaining or gaining weight.  I felt better when I weighed more, but if I gained five pounds in a week, I’d lose the next week.  Somewhere around age 23, I began to lose this problem.  I was out of the Army and working security when I discovered a way out of constant hunger.  I would stock up on frozen dinners and eat about 3 pounds worth in one 12-hour shift.  For the first time ever, I had an ass.  My wife was quite pleased about this.  I wasn’t entirely happy about how I’d done it or the shape of my body, but it stopped the painful persistent hunger and that made it worth it.  You know, people aren’t all that sympathetic when someone complains about how hard it is being fat, but try complaining about being too skinny and you’ll only get unmasked hostility (assuming you’re actually skinny).

For years I maintained a nearly athletic figure with a BMI in the “normal weight” range, while eating crap food and exercising very little.  I knew about the Atkins diet, but I didn’t know a lot about it.  It sounded kind of too good to be true.  I read a little about the paleo diet, and that seemed to make a lot of sense to me, but I didn’t invest much time into reading about.  There also seemed to be some contraversy about what Paleolithic man actually ate.  I wasn’t overweight, so this stuff wasn’t that important to me.  Then one day,  I was.  I swear to God I went to Chipotle and got one of their delicious burritos.  I ate the whole thing and became bloated, which was normal.  Which wasn’t normal was that the bloat didn’t seem to go away.

Some time back, I watched a lecture by science writer, Gary Taubes.  Gary was asking some very good questions about the common beliefs of human nutrition.  He had found what people around here like to call a shit-ton of evidence suggesting that ideas such as the big one that obesity is caused by gluttony, sloth, or some evil combination of the two, might be very wrong.  He also suggested that maybe Atkins was right, pointing to scientific research indicating that he was.  I was sold, and further reading on dietary intake of saturated fat and cholesterol convinced me that Atkins was right.  More reading convinced me that a diet devoid of grains, low in carbs, and high in saturated animal fat is not only good for losing weight but can also prevent and often cure almost every disease humans face.  This should make sense if you understand the concept of the paleo diet.  The diet that modern humans have adapted to eating is the one which our bodies work best on.  This means that health problems of modern humans are caused by us eating foods that are not natural for us.  Obesity is just one of those many problems.  If you first become overweight at age 15 and learn what to do about it, you might just live a longer healthier life than someone who waits until they’re 40 to become overweight.

When I started getting a fat belly, I cut back on sugar, and it seemed to do the trick somewhat, but I really wish I had known this stuff years ago.

If you’ve never looked into the low-carb or paleo diet, and need a quick explanation of why it would work or how carbs make us fat, go read Dr. Michael Eades review on Taubes’s new book, Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It.

If that sounds interesting, get Taubes’s book.

If you want to know more about Taubes research into everyone else’s research, or you need endless citations and a response to every challenge he could ever anticipate, get his other older book, Good Calories Bad Calories.  It’s an amazing book, but it’s very long and very detailed.  The newer book is much more concise and to the point.

If you don’t want to pay for either book, the video lecture that I watched way back when is on Google Videos for free.  It’s 71 minutes long and has some pictures of naked fat people.  You have been warned.

If you have a really hard time accepting the notion that doctors and researchers could be so wrong about nutrition for so many decades, please watch this presentation, by marginal comedian, blogger, and creator of the Fathead documentary, Tom Naughton.  It’s 42 minutes or so, and is full of lame jokes in front of a very receptive audience.  You have been warned again.

If you don’t care for that, and just want to hear someone funny, go watch some Lewis C.K. videos.

I don’t hate fat people.  I hate the fact that so many people are fat, especially the women.  I found this very depressing.  It’s even worse when it happens to girls I know.  I don’t really hate fat people.

Dr. Michael

21 04 2011

So I’ve been answering people’s stupid questions on Yahoo Answers for a while and today I stumbled upon a question answerer who blew my mind.  He goes by Dr. Michael and his avatar looks like a physician in a lab coat.  It’s only his third day on the site.  Every day people ask how they can lose weight as if they’re going to get a better answer than everyone else who already asked that question.  Some people are 350 lbs overweight and some are 3.5.  The answers they get are mostly wrong.  Today some fat girl asked how to lose weight, how many calories she should eat, and what kind of food she could eat.  I instantly responded with:

Avoid carbs. It really is that simple.

Others advised Weight Watchers, 2 hours of daily exercise, dietary fat avoidance, get a trainer, and other shit she won’t do and wouldn’t work if she did.  Later, I went back and saw this by Dr. Michael:

Google “keto” diet or “ketosis” diet. It is a high protein low carb diet. Don’t fall victim to the “low fat diet” and counting calories. Low fat diets are high carb diets and will pack on the fat. Another side effect of low fat diets is depression and hormone imbalance since humans require animal fat for survival. Limit your carbs to 25-45 grams a day and avoid sugar totally. If you eat more than 4 grams of sugar in one setting, and you do not burn the excess sugar immediately, then it will be stored as fat. When you are on a keto diet, your body goes into ketosis. This means that your body will not have carbs to burn immediately for energy as needed so it will start breaking down body fat into “ketones” that will mimic a carb and be burned for energy. That’s why the diet is called a keto diet.

Also avoid artificial sweeteners such as Equal and Splenda, they will spike insulin levels. Instead, use saccharine or stevia sweeteners. A lot of drinks have the bad artificial sweeteners in them.

Losing body fat is all about controlling your metabolism. The best way to increase your metabolism is to weight train. Google “high intensity training” also known as “H.I.T.” or “Nautilus workout”. The stronger you are the more calories you will burn at rest. One pound of muscle requires 7 to 15 calories a day to maintain.

You can also increase your metabolism by eating often. Your stomach empties every 2hours, so try eating a small meal or snack every 2 hours or so. By doing this your body will always be digesting food thus increasing your metabolism. Your body will think you are in a “rich” environment, so to speak, and will be less inclined to store fat for survival.

Hope this helps!

If you don’t know, this is what I hold to be true.  I guess I can safely delete my answer.  I don’t really know about that last part, eating more often to boost metabolism, but it makes sense intuitively.  Is this Dr. Michael the very Dr. Michael Eades whose blog I have a link to over there on the right?

Fried Chicken Gristle

13 06 2010

After cutting excess fat from some chicken I was preparing, I thought I might try and fry it up to get some liquid fat with which I might use to fry some other food. As the pieces fried, they began to resemble the white part of bacon, and I thought I might try and eat them. I fried the fat chunks for probably at least 20 minutes, added some Korean dumpling sauce, and at them. Very tasty. I think fat tissue becomes very edible if you cook it longer than it takes to cook the meat its normally attached to. I might try this with steak.

Everything You Know is Wrong, Part I

19 05 2010

Salt isn’t bad for you

I just found something to add to my reading list. It’s an article called The (Political) Science of Salt (pdf) that Gary Taubes wrote in 1999 for Science. It’s not available for free on their site, but it is available at the National Association of Science Writers site because it won their 1999 Science in Society Journalism Award for a magazine article. The bottom line is that there is no scientific evidence that reducing your salt intake will reduce your blood pressure if you’re not hypertensive. If you are, it might have a very small effect. The article is long, but good. I’ve known for a while that dietary recommendations to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol intake are based on garbage science, which made me wonder about salt. I never managed to find anything on it until I heard an interview with Taubes where he mentioned that it was the salt issue which first got him into dietary science.

Emphasis mine:

Through the early 1980s, the scientific discord over salt reduction was buried beneath the public attention given to the benefits of avoiding salt. […]

Not until after these campaigns were well under way, however, did researchers set out to do studies that might be powerful enough to resolve the underlying controversy. The first was the Scottish Heart Health Study, launched in 1984 by epidemiologist Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe and colleagues at the Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee, Scotland. The researchers used questionnaires, physical exams, and 24-hour urine samples to establish the risk factors for cardiovascular disease in 7300 Scottish men. This was an order of magnitude larger than any intrapopulation study ever done with 24-hour urine samples. The BMJ published the results in 1988: Potassium, which is in fruits and vegetables, seemed to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. Sodium had no effect.

With this result, the Scottish study vanished from the debate. Advocates of salt reduction argued that the negative result was no surprise because the study, despite its size, was still not large enough to overcome the measurement problems that beset all other intrapopulation studies. When the NHBPEP recommended universal salt reduction in its landmark 1993 report, it cited 327 different journal articles in support of its recommendations. The Scottish study was not among them. (In 1998, Tunstall-Pedoe and his collaborators published a 10-year follow-up: Sodium intake now showed no relationship to either coronary heart disease or death.)


Of all these studies, the one that may finally change the tenor of the salt debate was not actually about salt. Called DASH, for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, it was published in April 1997 in The New England Journal of Medicine. DASH suggested that although diet can strongly influence blood pressure, salt may not be a player. In DASH, individuals were fed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. In 3 weeks, the diet reduced blood pressure by 5.5/3.0 mmHg in subjects with mild hypertension and 11.4/5.5 mmHg in hypertensives — a benefit surpassing what could be achieved by medication. Yet salt content was kept constant in the DASH diets, which meant salt had nothing to do with the blood pressure reductions.

That reduction is far greater than even the most wildly optimistic projections for extreme salt reduction (from 10g/day to 4g/day). I was first introduced to Taubes via this 72 minute video.

Making Salsa

1 04 2010

I’ve developed a habit of making salsa. It’s an art. I’m no expert, but I thought I’d share what I know. I use a blender for most ingredients because I’m lazy and I get favorable results. I may update this later. First, I have to go buy some stuff. Here’s what I start with:

  • Tomatoes – I buy about at least one pound of Roma tomatoes. I don’t really know if they’re better for this purpose than other tomatoes, but I know they work. One pound is about 10 or 12.
  • Onion – One red, white, or yellow onion should more than enough
  • Garlic – One bulb is more than enough. If you don’t have a garlic press and don’t like chopping garlic by hand, you can use the chopped bottled stuff or garlic powder.
  • Peppers – For my most recent batch, I used 3 jalapeno and 3 serrano peppers (all fresh). That makes for some pretty hot salsa, hotter than most people prefer. The heat mostly comes from the relatively tiny serranos. For weak salsa, you might want to use a bell pepper to get that texture without the heat.
  • Cilantro – With fresh cilantro, one bunch is plenty. You can also use dried cilantro.
  • Lemon – One should be sufficient. You can also use a lime.
  • Spices – You need three things: salt, pepper, cumin.
  • Other things (that you might like but don’t need) – Oregano, dried peppers, green onions, vinegar, chili powder, red pepper, and so on…


First, I boil water in a pot and put cold water in another pot or large bowl. Then, I cut a little ‘X’ on the bottom of each tomato and drop in about half of them in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds, and then immediately into the cold. This is done to remove the skin, which should now peel right off. Then, I split them into quarters and cut out the white guts and seeds. This process might be easier with fewer larger tomatoes, but it works for me. Once I have a pile of skinless seedless tomato quarters, I chop the ever-loving hell out of them. If I find pieces that still have the skin attached, they get dropped into the blender. Actually, I always put at least some tomato chunks in the blender. The chopped pieces get strained and go into the main bowl. At this point I usually need to wipe the tomato blood from my counter top.

Next, I chop the onion. If it’s a large onion, I might not use all of it. I try to chop into very small pieces. When a start to cry, I throw the rest in the blender. Then, I chop the peppers into large chunks and toss them into the blender as well. Fresh garlic and fresh cilantro will also go in there if I’m using them. These are strong flavor ingredients, so I’d go easy if it’s your first time. Maybe use half a bunch of cilantro and two cloves of garlic. At this point I should have everything in the blender that needs to go in there, so I fire it up. There should be some kind of liquid in there (tomatoes) to get it all to turn. I use a blender because it’s what I have and chopping is tiring. If you have a food processor, give that a try. If all you have is a knife and a cutting board, that’s fine too. So, I run the blender just enough to get everything chopped, not to make soup.

Next, I pour the blender mix into the tomato and onion chunks and mix them up. Now, it’s time to add acid and spices. I’ll start with the juice from half of the lemon, probably two tablespoons of salt and about as much black pepper and cumin (Edit: try less at first). Of course, dried cilantro, jarred garlic and any extra stuff goes in now. Now, I mix it all up. At this point, it won’t taste right yet. I put a lid on the bowl and stick in the fridge for at least a day. Initially, the fresh peppers will taste very green (because they are) and most of the heat will be on the back of the tongue, which few will enjoy. After some time, the flavors will mix together and bring the heat forward a bit. After I take it back out of the fridge, it’s time to taste it and adjust accordingly. This is the art. Adding salt helps blend the flavors, while black pepper intensifies the flavor. Cumin seems to sort of sweeten the heat, if that makes any sense. Beyond that, I’m still learning and can’t always tell when I need to add more lemon, cumin, or garlic.