Friday, December 19, 2008

The 100s

The last time my weight started with a "1" was sometime around January 2007. I broke through the "flab floor" * a few days ago. This morning, after fasting on Thursday, I weighed in at 197.5 lbs..

I realize that weight alone is insufficient to measure progress—body fat percentage, waist size, blood chemistry (lipids, glucose, etc.), strength, and stamina are probably more important. Still, it's a nice psychological boost.

When I last saw the 100s, I was gaining back the 45 lbs. I had lost in 2006. That diet (low-fat, limited calories, lots of walking) relied on a lot of willpower, and was nutritionally misguided. Still, it had been a big ego boost to get into the 170s, which made failure all the more ignominious.

Now, I don't get cravings for sweets and other junk.

[Note: I never did finish this article and left it as a draft on 12/19/08. Now 03/30/10 I'm just publishing it almost entirely as is.]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Exercising at Home

Over the years, I've had several exercise program false starts—I make grand plans, spend lots of money on equipment, gym memberships, etc., only to lose steam in a few days. Not carrying through with plans is bad enough, without the additional ignomy of paying for nothing.

A couple years ago, I avoided this by getting all my exercise from walking and jogging, which didn't require much more than a new pair of shoes. As I've now learned, that exercise plan had only limited benefits (no strength training), and the diet (limited calories) was too hard for me to maintain more than a year. Still, I had done something substantive, without any big expense.

This time, I've bought a couple kettle bells (4kg and 8kg - $45) and a lunge bar ($8). I've been doing ad hoc exercise routines, usually twice a week. My goal is to spend 30 minutes doing intense, strength-oriented exercises. Most of the time, I'm exhausted by the 25 minute mark, sometimes earlier. I try to stop early enough that I'm not sore the next couple days. Now, and when I've done strength training in the past, I only got very sore when I first started lifting weights. When I overdid it, the soreness would be worse two days afterwards.

[Note: I never did finish this article and left it as a draft on 12/14/08. Now 03/30/10 I'm just publishing it as is.]

Monday, December 8, 2008

On the Menu

Since starting my diet, I've had to explain to other people what I eat and don't eat. My short answer is to say I eat "whole foods" and then proceed to make a list of what I don't eat: junk food, grains, corn syrup, and vegetable oils. I explain that I avoid processed foods and sugar as much as possible. I've gotten some very confused looks, particularly when I get to the part about eating lots of animal fat.

I try not to eat processed foods or sugar. When it comes to things like pasta sauce (to use on spaghetti squash), I get those labeled "organic" (*), with olive oil instead of canola or corn oil. But I do eat some things, like sausage, for which I haven't been able to find any local stores which sell uncured versions. I have to stand there for five minutes reading the ingredients to find one which isn't made with corn syrup, and make a guess about which has the fewest negative ingredients. Some things I get have extra preservatives and other chemicals, like dried apricots, figs, and apples (most other dried fruits have sugar added, unfortunately). I sometimes eat canned fruit in natural juices. Also, I do drink a couple whey protein shakes each week . My one consistent vice is chocolate. I get 85% cocoa "organic" chocolate (Green & Black's), which I make last for a week or more.

I do pay heed to the principles of the Paleolithic Diet, considering how nutrition fit into the evolutionary process before agriculture. But I don't strictly adhere to the guidelines of that diet. I eat cheese, "organic" whole milk yogurt, unsalted butter, and "organic" whole milk and cream quite often. Yogurt (with fresh berries) and cottage cheese make great desserts, though I don't miss them if I go without for a couple weeks. I also eat legumes occasionally. And, I eat potatoes (baked, mashed, or cooked with a roast or stew).

When I started in September, I chose to simply eat what was "good" and avoid what was "bad" without regard to percentages of fat, proteins, vitamins, etc.. That way, I could eat what sounded good at the time, and ease into the transition. Now and then, I feel the irrational urge to binge on something decadent, perhaps to relieve stress. And, where that would have involved junk food in the past, now it means eating lots of fruit or dairy. I still don't think my diet is as balanced as it should be--too much fruit and not enough vegetables. But I'm progressing and finding my natural cravings to be informative.

  • Breakfast usually involves eggs and uncured bacon. If I have enough time, I make an omelette or frittata. I like to add onions, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, and peppers.
  • Lunch usually involves either leftovers, salads, or steamed broccoli. I got tired of making salads from lettuce, as it tends to dilute the flavors of some ingredients. I like avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, hard-boiled eggs, tuna or salmon, and balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
  • Dinner varies quite a bit. My preferred main course is steak. Salmon is also a favorite. An easy one is a ground meat (beef, lamb, bison) patty with cheese. A store-bought rotisserie chicken or spiral ham (I messed up by adding the glaze last time) on occasion is a nice break. I try to eat more of the fat of these meats than everyone else. Slightly more involved recipes include cauliflower pizza, spaghetti squash, ratatouille, sausage and cabbage stir fry, rosemary lemon chicken, stew (my wife's recipe includes a spoonful of flour for a big pot, and mixed vegetables which include corn, so I make those compromises), and corned beef with cabbage. Vegetables are usually frozen, steamed cabbage, or salads (with oil and vinegar).
  • Snacks throughout the day usually include fruits (bananas, melons, berries, grapes, dried fruits), nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), summer sausage and cheese.
As Nikoley points out, it becomes much easier not to cheat. I can count on one hand the number of time's I've "cheated" with pastries or Thanksgiving corn bread stuffing. None of them have been so satisfying enough to make it worth my while, though.

* My wife reminds me how I had made fun of her for looking at "organic" produce in the grocery store, just a few months back. I based this on a general distrust of fads, ambiguous definitions, and unscientific hysteria. I still think the label is often misleading or irrelevant.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Still Going

I have collected quite a few photographs and recipes which I plan to put up later this month. Salads, cauliflower pizza, ratatouille, and more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sausage and Cabbage Stir Fry

Based upon this recipe by Richard Nikoley:

  • 1/2 head green cabbage
  • 1/2 head purple cabbage
  • 1/2 red onion
  • large link of Polish sausage (Richard recommended uncured sausage, if you can find it)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil

Heat oil in wok on high. Add onions. Stir for 30 seconds. Add cabbage and sausage. Stir fry for 5 minutes or until vegetables are desired crunchiness.

As you can see, I added too much coconut oil (it was my first attempt at cooking with it). Also, the color from the purple cabbage bled into everything else. The same thing happened when I used the remaining half to cook with potatoes and carrots—when I fixed a corned beef dinner. The purple potatoes freaked out my son. I don't know if there is a way to prevent that, such as blanching it first. I'll have to experiment with it.

Incidentally, my wife thinks my wok is aluminum, and worries her that cooking with it could increase the risk of Alzheimer's. I think it's carbonized steel, but there is no imprint on it. If anyone knows how to tell the difference, let me know.


I'm a 39-year-old man tired of being overweight, with all of the discomfort and health problems that entails. I am pursuing a nutrition plan inspired by others who describe their diets as "Evolutionary" and "Paleo". Broadly, this means that, as much as possible, I am eating whole foods, without any grains, processed food, or "diet" drinks. I am including intermittent fasting, and my exercise workouts are designed to build muscle mass.

Richard Nikoley's Free the Animal website has been my primary source and inspiration. I've been reading him for years, before he got into fitness. I was a little put off at first that his political and social commentaries were on the wane, but after seeing his results and knowing I needed to change my ways to be healthy, I decided to follow his example. Initial results are promising. Unlike past diets, where I relied on willpower to deal with limiting calories, now I allow myself to eat as much as I feel like, but only whole foods. I was able to lose 45 lbs. in 2006, which required a lot of willpower. I eventually fell into old habits and slowly gained it all back, but I expect that I won't have to struggle as much, if I have the option to "binge" on healthy foods.

I will probably not be updating this website on a timely basis. I expect to have occasional flurries of recipes and food pics, results, and the like.