I watched 3 really interesting videos in the last 3 days. The first was a documentary on Hulu called Fat Head. Here’s the summary:
Have you seen the news stories about the obesity epidemic? Did you see Super Size Me? Then guess what? … You’ve been fed a load of bologna.
Comedian (and former health writer) Tom Naughton replies to the blame-McDonald’s crowd by losing weight on a fat-laden fast-food diet while demonstrating that nearly everything we’ve been told about obesity and healthy eating is wrong. Along with some delicious parody of Super Size Me, Naughton serves up plenty of no-bologna facts that will stun most viewers, such as: The obesity “epidemic” has been wildly exaggerated by the CDC. People the government classifies as “overweight” have longer lifespans than people classified as “normal weight.” Having low cholesterol is unhealthy. Lowfat diets can lead to depression and type II diabetes. Saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease — but sugars, starches and processed vegetable oils do.
The last video I watched was called Sugar: The Bitter Truth. It became somewhat of an internet sensation back in 2009 but I guess I missed it. It’s a 1.5 hour lecture on why fructose is a toxin. (I’m sold.) The lecturer is a doctor by the name of Robert H. Lustig.
If you have some time (each video is over an hour) I highly recommend them. The gist of all of them is that the obesity epidemic is caused, not by fat/saturated fat/meat, but by too much sugar and too many carbohydrates. My take on them:
The first link (Fat Head) “proves” that a high-fat diet is good for you. Um, duh. Tom Naughton’s high-fat diet consists of a lot of meat; I am still kind of undecided on the meat issue. Two more of his points are that 1) grains are doing a lot of damage (he does go into detail but I don’t want to right now) and 2) processed vegetable oils (corn oil, soybean oil, etc… – and not just he partially hydrogenated trans fat ones) are also killing us. Humans are not used to eating either of those things.
Now – I like meat, and I would eat it, but I am morally opposed to the way meat is produced in our country, and I can’t bring myself to eat it anymore. If meat were truly ethically raised? I’m still unsure nowadays. I’m getting off topic, but my takeaway from this one – fat is good. Eat more of it. Eat veggies too, though. It may be possible to have a semi-healthful fast food diet, but it’s probably better to just be more primal.
Mmm… bacon and eggs and butter.
Personal side notes:
My “Bring on the Fat” post from last year (one year ago – to the day). Sadly I didn’t keep up with this as much as I’d have liked. Now that I’m a veggie I need to get my animal fat from butter, ghee, eggs (with yolk), and dairy (goat’s and sheep’s milk yogurts are my faves; regular ol’ organic whole cow’s milk for my coffee). Since I went veggie I have been eating too many carbs and not enough fats.
The Great Fat Animal Experiment. This was from a year and 3 days ago; it was an intro to my passion for animal fat. I still do love animal fat; again, I’m just going to try to get it from non-meat sources.
Way back in July 2009 (4 days before I got engaged… can’t believe I am married now!) was one of the first times I started trying to eat more fat. I didn’t really follow through, at least not to the extent that I should have. I have come a long way since then.
Big Fat Lies
The second link (Big Fat Lies) discusses the matter of why people are getting fat; is it simply that we eat too much and sit on our asses? Gary Taubes seems to think that it’s because we have too much insulin (I’m leaning towards agreeing with him, but I think the reason we have too much insulin is because we… eat too much). He basically says that we aren’t getting fat because we’re eating more; we’re eating more because we’re getting fat. He debunks Ancel Keys’ Lipid Hypothesis/Seven Countries Study which states that:
Saturated fat increases cholesterol. (If A then B.)
High cholesterol associated with heart disease. (B associated with C.)
Saturated fat must cause heart disease! (If A then C.)
What a load of bologna! Ugh, too much to say about this horrible study, will post about this later (if I don’t remind me). I tend to agree with Taubes’ conclusions, but I think that there are a lot of people out there who do simply “eat too much” for probably mental reasons. It’s not just hormones that are making us fat. We have issues that also make us eat too much which starts the vicious cycle of greedy fat cells –> eat more –> greedier fat cells –> eat even more –> also be lazy because we’re too fat.
Sugar: The Bitter Truth
The last link, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, Robert H. Lustig discusses how fructose is metabolized in the body. It turns out that fructose is very similar to ethanol, which is a toxin. He also debunks the Seven Countries Study (though for different reasons than Taubes does). He’s not a low-carb advocate (unlike the other two); he thinks we just have to eat the right carbs, which does not include sugar at all. His diet prescriptions for his patients (mostly kids) are (this is around the 1:10 mark):
Only beverages should be water and milk
Eat carbs with fiber (ex: fruit is fructose but has fiber built in)
Wait 20 minutes for second portions
If you’re gonna stare at a screen (tv/video games) you have to do equal amounts of activity (playing outside)
His prescriptions are probably easier and more reasonable to follow than what Taubes thinks we should do (low-carb, lots of meat); they’re also probably more sustainable (we can’t all live on steak due to overpopulation). I’m still on the fence about carbs though. I love ’em, but they make me feel like shit. Maybe I’m just more sensitive than some people; my husband could probably live on just carbs and get along fine. (Though he did lose 10 pounds in the last month from being vegetarian – 10 pounds he did not need to lose and he is worried about. He’s practically as skinny as I am.)
What are your thoughts? On grains? On carbs? On sugar? On fructose? On saturated fats? On animal fats? On “healthy” fats? On a low-fat diet? On a low-carb diet? On Tom Naughton/Gary Taubes/Robert Lustig?
Or, if you wanna stop with the heavy topics…
What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?
Bobby got us reservations as a restaurant we haven’t been to yet but that I hear great things about.
…Will probably be a macro plate. But that is not what this post is about! (If you do want to see another yummy macro plate read yesterday’s post.) Last night I watched part of “The Future of Food“, a documentary on Netflix streaming.
(My lunch in 20 years)
(A McDonald’s lunch that is 20 years old – kidding, but this is probably what it would look like: completely and totally the same. The preservatives will keep it fresh. Maybe it will be a little dry. Source.)
The Future of Food: Some Simple Facts About The Food Industry’s History
Today’s facts are not even so much about the future of food, but of the past (I’ll cover the future in a later post, perhaps). I’ll start with a basic question – where are the farmers?
History of the Farming Labor Force
Currently (2010) less than 2% of the U.S. population are farmers.
In 1790, 90% of the population were farmers.
In 1840, 69% of the population were farmers.
In 1900, 38% of the population were farmers.
In 1940, 18% of the population were farmers.
In 1960, 8.3% of the population were farmers.
The numbers decline quickly after that, leading to today’s number (<2%).
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the fact that fewer of us make a living working on a farm – it is just an interesting trend to follow. Obviously most of us work in offices nowadays. Onto more facts.
History of Agriculture
12,000 years ago people began to plant and save seeds
Agriculture led to a huge boom of civilizations. Not having to spend our days hunting and gathering freed up our time to think, create, and develop complex social systems. Agriculture allowed us to discover wonderful things like calculus and to pursue the arts.
History of Food Variety
In China, they used to grow thousands of varieties of rice.
There used to be over 5000 varieties of potatoes worldwide. (Today there are 4 main varieties.)
There were over 7000 types of apples grown just in the U.S. in the 19th century.
About 97% of the varieties of fruits and vegetables that existed at the beginning of the 20th centry are now extinct.
This is another interesting trend. When there are fewer and fewer varieties of a type of plant, that plant becomes more and more susceptible to catastrophes. For example, the potato famine in Ireland killed 1 million people because they only grew a few varieties of potatoes. That same potato blight hit in Peru, but they did not suffer nearly as much because they had more varieties of potatoes and many were resistant to the blight. The blight only affected a few of the crops, and people did not starve.
My Farming History
My family used to be farmers. We still have the farms! But we don’t farm anything anymore. Sometimes I wish that I would have had the choice/opportunity to work on a farm (or even run one). My sister works at an organic farm. I wish I had that job when I was in high school (I worked at a video store instead, and then a restaurant).
Have you seen The Future of Food? What did you think? What do you think about the trends in agriculture currently – fewer and fewer farmers, more and more genetic modifications (more on this later), less variety, and so on…?
Last night after work I headed home and found my brother waiting in the cafe under my apartment. I like being with family; I’m glad that I get to see him a couple times a month. I miss the rest of my family and Bobby’s family too. Luckily we will be hosting Bobby’s parents later this month, which we are both excited for. We want to take them out to all of our favorite places. These are my siblings now (left to right: sis, bro, me, bobby, sis-in-law):
The cafe downstairs was having $1 off salad day yesterday so that is what I had for the first course of my dinner. I said “tofu” but the guy heard “tuna“, so that was my main ingredient. I should accidentally order tuna more often; this was delicious. It also had: egg whites, portobello mushrooms, mandarin oranges, olives, grapes, apples, broccoli, sprouts, roasted peppers, regular peppers, beets, tomatoes, and I can’t even remember what else. It has unlimited toppings so I get pretty much everything. I get the chipotle ranch dressing on the side (but I use the whole thing).
Mind Over Money
I ate my salad while watching a Nova documentary called Mind Over Money. If you are an economist (Coco) or if you just enjoy learning, check it out. It talks about the debate between behavioral and traditional (more rational) economics, and basically says that humans don’t act rationally when it comes to money – we are irrational and very much influenced by our emotions. It talks about the (in)efficiency of markets, why the crash in 2008 might have happened (and why economists didn’t predict it), the housing bubble, the tulip bubble of the 1600s, decision making, and more. I really enjoyed it. I double majored in econ and math so this was right up my alley.
We have Netflix and I watched the documentary streaming on my computer (we can watch Netflix streaming on the TV too using Bobby’s XBox). We don’t get cable and I don’t watch TV aside from Netflix documentaries anymore. And Hoarders.
Flowers for Sanity
I read somewhere that keeping flowers in the house helps keep you happy and healthy. I like them because they are a little bit of nature right in my Manhattan apartment. These are from Trader Joe’s and they were just $3.99. Good deals make me happy too 🙂
Dessert Snack Time
I never have “just a salad” for dinner and tonight was no exception. I don’t usually like nut butter, but I was in a nutty mood last night so I spread a large Trader Joe’s blueberry muffin with probably too much peanut butter and savored it. I don’t have a picture though. It wasn’t that pretty but it sure was toothsome, sapid, and titillating. There are some good vocab words for you!
I went to a gym class and I ran into Missy! We chatted and then did class together. I have been to better Zumba classes though – the instructor last night was very repetitive and too fast.
I’m going to go off on a tangent for this post; it’s completely unrelated to food, but very much related to health and well-being. I am watching a really interesting documentary called “This Emotional Life” on Netflix this week. It was first aired on PBS in January of 2010. That’s what made me think of this post.
The second episode (I will get to the first one later) is called Facing Our Fears.
Overview of the Rational and Emotional Brains
The main topics in the segment are anger, fear, anxiety, and despair. Every human feels these emotions. So how do we deal with them? And why do we feel them? Apparently we have two parts of our brain; one is quite ancient and the other is fairly new. The older part (this part has been around since brains first developed) is the emotional part. The newer part is the rational brain. Unfortunately they don’t always get along very well.
Many many years ago, our emotional brain protected us from lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). Today our emotional brain protects us from angry cab drivers and rude people that cut in front of us in the line at the grocery store. We don’t need the same reaction for rude people as we do for bears. But (unfortunately) our brains do have that same reaction anyway.
Humans are still evolving, so maybe over time the communication and the relationship between these two parts of our brain will improve. But for now…
Pretend that the two parts of your brain are an elephant and a rider. There is an end destination that they have to get to. The rider has to figure out how to get the elephant to that destination. There are lots of roads, but none of them lead where they need to go. To get to the destination, they have to forge a new path.
Some roads are already paved but do not lead anywhere worthwhile. Some of them just go off to randomness and others lead towards bad, scary places. The rider and the elephant should not take those roads, even though they are smooth and paved, because those roads don’t go to the right place.
If you didn’t figure it out already, the rider is the rational brain and the elephant is the emotional brain.
The rider starts to guide the elephant into the woods to make a new path. The elephant gets scared. The rider beats the elephant and the elephant refuses to go further. Maybe the elephant starts going in the wrong direction. The more the rider beats the elephant, the more the elephant resists. The rider gives up for the day and they both sleep.
The next day, the rider again tries to get the elephant to go into the woods. The elephant remembers the beating from the day before and associates it with the woods. He refuses again. At this point the rider will either beat the elephant, or soothe the elephant and let him stay where he is. If the rider beats the elephant, the elephant will run, spooked, down the paved road that leads nowhere good. If the rider calms the elephant, they stay where they are.
Let’s say the rider did not beat the elephant again. Now the elephant is remembering that maybe it is okay to go in the woods. Yesterday the rider was nice; maybe he will be nice again. The elephant is not fully at ease though, because the rider beat him a few days ago. Maybe they make it 10 feet. The elephant is still scared of the rider and hesitant.
Over time, the rider can choose to beat the elephant repeatedly and get nowhere (or go backwards, or go towards somewhere bad) OR the rider can choose to comfort the animal and treat him well. The elephant reacts the the way the rider treats him. The rider must realize that because he beat the elephant in the past, the elephant is not going to trust him for a while.
The elephant’s reactions are automatic and unconscious.
The rider is conscious and rational.
Our emotions are like the elephant, and our rational brain is like the rider. If we want to tame our emotions, we cannot beat them up first. We have to accept them, and only then can we begin to convince them to do what we want.
Beating the elephant is like beating yourself up for something that your unconscious did (or “made” you do). It is not helpful and not productive. Accept whatever it is about yourself that you don’t like – and then you can start to change it.
I have been eating a lot of the same stuff recently, but surprisingly I’m not bored. Because each of my meals has almost a dozen ingredients, I guess that’s variety enough to keep me happy.
This salad was…
base: iceberg and green leaf lettuce
toppings: raw blue cheese, seaweed, raw corn, heirloom tomatoes, red cabbage, beets, red bell pepper
dressing: liquid gold elixir AND some carrot juice (why not?)
I got some great responses to the favorite food question. The trick was to see if people would list specific ingredients (tomatoes, etc…) or specific dishes (hamburger, etc…). I think most people realized the trick though. I also used Aardvark to get some more answers. Here are some responses from Aardvark users..
“Interesting. Never thought about it. Avocado, Honey, ALL Thai food, Tofu, a really good steak”
I thought these answers were very interesting because they don’t come from healthy bloggers… but almost all of them had vegetables in the top 5. Most of them listed just ingredients, not dishes. I found it funny that the person who listed tofu as a favorite food also liked “really good steak”.
Some of your favorites were: almond butter, apples, avocado, bananas, berries, blueberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, champagne, cheese, cherries, coconut things, coffee, corn, crab, crusty bread, dark chocolate, dates, fish, fresh greens, fruit, Greek yogurt, grilled zucchini, hummus, kabocha, macademia nuts, mango, mashed potatoes, mushrooms, nectarines, oatmeal with bananas & cinnamon, pancakes, peaches, peanut butter, raw cashews, rice, salmon, salsa, shrimp, spinach, strawberries, sunbutter, sushi, and sweet potatoes.
I’m having trouble deciding mine. At this very moment (in no particular order):
my green juice (not a single ingredient – a dish)
raw blue cheese
But this changes all the time. The only thing on there that isn’t a specific ingredient is the juice, but it’s a very specific recipe (must have ginger, lemon/lime, mint, granny smith apple, + GREEN things).
Another interesting question to ask is this – what are your favorite exercises? No trick here; my favorites (right now) are rebounding and yoga. A few weeks ago I would have said dance videos. A few weeks before that I would have said running and walking. It changes all the time. I’m off to do some yoga, and then I think I’ll rebound for a few minutes. Yesterday the only exercise I did was 30 minutes of rebounding, but it felt great. I watched the NOVA documentary “Cracking the Maya Code” while I bounced.
Yesterday we went to two holiday parties – Bobby’s (for Microsoft) and mine! We went to mine first (they started at the same time), but things hadn’t picked up 1.5 hours into the party, so we decided to head over to Bobby’s. We were planning on going back to mine after Bobby’s was over, but we didn’t really have the energy when the time came. Here’s my outfit:
Bobby’s company rented out this huge building and had a themed event with lots of awesome multicultural food. At this point I’d just been snacking on veggies and guac (at mine) so we decided to eat. I got lots of veggie curry (mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, chickpeas) and this tropical fruit salad (pineapple, avocado (!), melons, mango, and some light creamy sauce). I went back for lots of plates.
I wasn’t really planning on having desserts because they were all really sugary, but that plan went out the window after I had my first bite of chocolate cherry brownie. I think I must have consumed at least a day’s worth of calories in desserts, but… it was worth it. I usually eat so well that I think it’s okay to splurge once in a while. I did wake up feeling sick and sweaty in the middle of the night, so I don’t think I’m going to overdose on sugar again in the near future. Or at least I hope I don’t.
Backing up a bit…
Bobby and I headed into the city (San Francisco) in the early afternoon and ate lunch at our favorite Japanese deli – Delica RF-1 in the Ferry Building. We got very similar meals. I got:
hijiki&soybean salad – description from site – Hijiki (seaweed rich in calcium, iron, and fiber) mixed with dried soybeans, edamame, konnyaku (mountain potato), daikon, wild mizuna, fried tofu, and kuko (wolfberry).
burdock and lotus root salad – A spicy mix of braised burdock and konnyaku (mountain potato) tossed with thin slices of white onion, celery, julienne carrots, and wild mizuna.
wasabi garlic potato salad (so good – I’m scared of potatoes and don’t usually order them but this was delicious, and not too too heavy) – Garlic potato salad with wasabi mayonnaise, edamame, snap peas, and romaine hearts.
wasabi garlic potato salad
burdock and lotus root salad
sweet&spicy chicken – Marinated chicken, lightly fried, served with sweet & spicy sauce.
Later on Bobby got a bread bowl of tomato soup (vegetarian) and I had some of that as well. We got the bowl on the side so we could dip it instead. I also got this great diet black cherry soda (sweetened with Splenda; this is the first diet soda for me in almost 3 weeks!).
This morning I woke up feeling better after the massive desserts and headed down to the gym for an hour of walking on the treadmill. It was nice. I actually enjoy walking on a treadmill (but can’t stand running on one – too boring) and I watched this documentary about a con artist who called himself Christopher Rockefeller. He’s French. I think con artists are usually brilliant, even though they are insane.
Before heading back to Mountain View (by train) we picked up breakfast. I got the perfect oatmeal from Starbucks. It was good! I added a bunch of spices (nutmeg, chocolate, and vanilla) and enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t add the brown sugar that’s pictured. I also added some tea (Berryblossom White, my favorite flavour at Starbucks) to the oatmeal to make it creamier because I forgot to add milk while I was still in the shop!
Once back in Mountain View, we stopped at the farmers’ market (it’s held in the train station parking lot) and I got some loose green grapes for $1/pound. I took them home and made lunch – raspberry lowfat yogurt (a little more than a cup), a cup of grapes, and a thick HEEL slice (the best) of cinnamon sugar toast! I saw this on Hil’s blog the other day and I’ve been craving it ever since.
I’m hoping to do some yoga and maybe some more walking later today. And tonight we have plans to get Vietnamese food. I’m excited! Oh, and there were apples today and yesterday, but you guys can just assume that I’m always having apples because I eat them so often that I forget to take pics or even mention them 🙂 Have a lovely Sunday!