Sunday, April 30, 2023

Electronic minimalism around the exercise bike

 When I used to train as a junior rower, one of the things I identified about aerobic activity is that if someone interrupts you during it, your reaction might be more severely annoyed than if you were at resting heart rate.

I've experimented with all manner of electronic distractions to put in front of an exercise bike.  In grad school, one of the projects I worked on was a VR rig for indoor cycling.   At home years later I had a big TV and Chromecast on a mount in front of the bike.

None of these were ever that satisfying for riding.

I had an insight today on my indoor bike:  the visually-heavy solutions for distraction can be an annoyance, where something calmer might be more sustainable.

Currently I have my bike facing out a big window where I can see some trees, I had a "keto" podcast playing, and I had a heart rate readout on my wrist.  Built into the bike is an RPM monitor and difficulty control.  This was a pretty calming combination, and I didn't feel like I missed more of a distraction.

When I was a rower, I didn't even really like headphones in, much less a TV to stare at.  I can foresee a point where the podcast becomes annoying at higher exertion rates, and I just want to listen to techno, or nothing at all.

So maybe try a bit of minimalism around your exercise experience? 

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Dietetics Degree

 My overriding feeling about getting a dietetics degree is that by becoming a licensed professional, I would be bound by the current standards of care such as those found on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website:

Recently seen on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics under "Breakfast Recipes"

"Pancakes are an all-American breakfast treat, and this version pairs chocolate chips and fresh bananas for extra goodness. In Michigan, where wild berries grow, people love to use blueberry syrup; you can also try them with wild blueberry sauce."

Additionally, the recipe calls for low fat buttermilk and cooking spray.  In their defense they do label this a "breakfast treat" though.

"This version of French toast uses whole-wheat bread and fat-free milk for a healthier option. Enjoy the traditional way or chop into sticks for dunking!"

In their defense at least they list the maple syrup as "optional".

Uncomplicated Keto from Eric Westman MD

Westman is a practicing physician, and inherits from the Atkins approach.  He has authored numerous academic research studies on keto, and continues to treat patients out of his Duke University clinic.  

My general comment is that step one is to get off of sugar, and to eat whole, unprocessed foods.

Not much comment on this slide, pretty self explanatory.

Keep in mind that this could be thought of as an 'induction' phase of keto.  I have personally experimented with eating more leafy greens and non-starchy veggies than listed here.  You also want to pay attention that you are getting these veggies for the fiber content and the effect on bowel movement.

My personal experience is that adding lots of butter to eggs, or cooking baby spinach in bacon grease with added butter is counterproductive to my weight loss.  The idea is to eat the natural fats that come along with the protein you are eating.  

Another note is that cheese may really worsen constipation.

Don't add extra fats and oils

Eat the natural fats that come along with the protein you are consuming, but be wary of adding extra fats like butter and oil. 

I really like this tracker

 I've been in a little bit of a stall since upping my exercise and starting to cook for myself.  A friend suggested that it might be a problem with portion control.  I was eating all the right foods.

Most of the luminaries I have been following say that you don't need to count calories, or track macros.  However, I would cook 5 pieces from a pack of chicken, and proceed to eat them in one sitting.  I didn't have any way of applying reason to my portion control, and was just relying on satiety signals.  Regularly, I was blowing past feelings of fullness and over-consuming.

The tracker Carb Manager has been really helpful in remedying this.  I am able to stoke my analytical brain in the process of managing my input.  It's a bit arduous, and the numbers aren't exact, but I find the data really helpful.

As an app developer, I also feel a certain amount of envy for how well put together this app is!

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

How to leave food on the plate...

 I noticed that I have what you might call a compulsion to finish the food on my plate, due to a loathing of wrapping up leftovers. They are never enough for a full meal, and I just don't want to be snacking at midnight.


an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one's conscious wishes.

I devised a pretty simple, and probably obvious technique for dealing with this: wrap up the bits in a sandwich baggie, and add them to brekkie the next morning!

Monday, April 24, 2023

Talk: Evidence-based vs internet keto.

Taking a cue from Eric Westman about "triggering" foods that are otherwise low carb.

Westman talks often about how nuts can be problematic on a low carb diet.   Even though they have a pretty tolerable macronutrient composition, the foods can be triggering. This often causes overconsumption. 

There might be other foods that effect people in this way, and this might be different on a person-person basis.  

For me an example is Cajun spice on otherwise plain baked chicken legs and thighs.  Inevitably if I use or overuse this spice I either overeat at the meal, or dive into leftovers later in the evening.   The latter being out of an addiction to the flavor, rather than being hungry.  

Friday, April 21, 2023

Figure out if there are things that can make a low-carb diet as addictive as chocolate chip pancakes.

 Breakfast was sausage, baby spinach, and eggs, cooked together in a frying pan. (sausage first, then spinach, then eggs) For spice I added some garam masala, and some cayanne pepper.  

I was thinking though - this meal is good, but what would make me want to eat it every morning (and save the money over diner food to boot) would be a dallop of sour cream.  Sour cream being a low-carb food, there's no problem adding it, and if it improves the palatability this much, it's worth it.

Kitchen optimization: Use the correct bags for your garbage can

 When I moved into my place, I went to staples and bought some generic black plastic garbage pales.  What makes these a real joy to use, is that I actually bought the correct sized garbage bags for them.  There is no overflowing mess from a bag that is too big or too small.

Kitchen optimization: Use paper towels

 At my house, I use paper towels.  Maybe this is a crutch to get me to cook more by reducing the clean-up overhead.  I just don't worry about the environmental impact, but I do choose towels made of recycled material.

The difference between a stinky, overused sponge, or having to wash cloth napkins and towels (environmental impact / water / energy usage?) is that I actually cook, and have fun in the kitchen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Jersey Diners are Great, But...

When you do the right thing and order spinach instead of potatoes and toast, there's something uniquely annoying about a waitress saying slightly sarcastically, "that's a really healthy meal".

The other thing that drives me _nuts_ is the stupid awkard interaction about the upcharge for a vegetable.  If you say "Could I have spinach instead of potatoes and toast", you have to engage in this embarrasing, complex negotiation.  I have resorted to just saying "Hold the potatoes and toast, and give me a side of spinach."  Avoiding the pain point and the embarrasement of seeming like you are trying to get something for nothing is more important to me than the stupid $1 up charge.

It's funny how even a small amount of friction reinforces bad behavior.

A wifi scale is a key tool in this process.

 I currently use a Withings scale, but any scale that can log to the internet and produce a weight loss graph is great.  There is varying advice on this, but I weigh myself every morning.  The minor ups and downs are smoothed by a moving average.  I don't expect the scale to trend downwards every day, but I have enough data to see movement in the right general direction.

In that sense the logging feature is key.   When I used a regular mechanical scale in the past, it was sometimes hard to remember from day to day what was going on, and see a trend.  You get caught up in the micro-movements from day to day.  Again, the graph's moving average takes care of this.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

When you see just a giant hippo of a person at a Jewish deli, stuffing their face with french toast and drinking Dr. Pepper in front of their obese daughter, what do you think is going through their mind?

Call my a sadist, but I find it strangely motivating to sit there and watch this menagerie of horribly obese bodies go by.  I'm not where I want to be in terms of fitness end goals, but I feel like I'm on the path.  I have thought everything the list below at one time or another, and I can totally empathize with these people.  At the same time, I can't help but have thoughts like "$200 of my $500 ACA monthly insurance payment is going to treat their diabetes."

I'm in a strange mood and I feel like I shouldn't post this at all.  However, if I'm thinking this, then it's no wonder that people in fit bodies exhibit something bordering on hatred of the obese.

I hope with this blog, to work on some of the issues below.  I 100% believe obesity is a disease of lack of good information, not of laziness.  I also acknowledge that it is also a disease of poverty, but these people are paying $25 a plate for their shit meals here, so at least in this specific case, poverty isn't the issue.

 1) "I've tried every diet, and none of them work, so I've just given up."

2) "I've tried low carb specifically" (But I was drinking a tonne of diet soda, and processed sugar replacements, or I found it too difficult for some other reason.)

3) "I hate myself, and I just don't care anymore."

4) "I've done everything my doctor told me: cutting fat and calories, walking more..etc, but it didn't work.  He keeps exhorting me to follow his advice, but I've tried."

5) "I can't afford the pastrami."

6) "I know I'm fat, but I'm just confused about diets, and don't know what to do."

7) "This is a celebration of..."

8) "I've been (some level of) obese my whole life, this is just how I move through the world."

9) "This is the last meal like this before I do everything right tomorrow."

10) "I killed myself at the gym all of January, and it did nothing.  I give up."

New fitbit.. weight is going up?!?

 I ramped up my walking routine now that the weather is getting better.  Unfortunately, this has had a probably-temporary negative impact on my weight loss.  This may be attributable to three functions:

1) Micro-tears in the muscle fibers lead to increased inflamation and water retention.

2) Increase in appetite.

3) More lean muscle mass.

We have all heard the term TOFI (thin on the inside, fat on the outside), but what about a term that describes someone doing all the right things nutritionally, but who is essentially sedentary?  I think the increased fitness is a net win, and I have enough good weight loss trajectory to withstand a little bit of an inflection point.  My concern is for people who are just getting started who might get frustrated.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Eating intuitively might not be possible if you haven't cleaned up your diet.

 Sugar and starch are addictive.  Processed food is also engineered to be addictive.

An example I heard recently (in this film) was to consider something like a bowl of raw, unsalted almonds.  That's pretty enticing, but I think you would quickly reach a point of satiety eating them, probably before the bowl ran out.  Now replace those raw almonds with honey roasted and salted almonds, i.e. almonds covered in sugar and salt.  There is literally no end to the appetite for that.  If it were me, I would only stop eating when I ran out. If I didn't, and had them in a cabinet, I would suffer intrusive thoughts of eating them, even when I was full.

I like the idea of intuitive eating, and do it naturally these days.  However, dinner was a piece of beef that I cooked myself, and cauliflower, both cooked in butter.  That's a very filling meal, even at a relatively small portion size.  It's also satiating in the sense that one stays full for hours afterwards.  I'm fairly confident that even if I cooked up a platter of it, I would reach a reasonable point where I just didn't want any more, and that that point would be similar to the amount I cooked for myself as one serving.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Michael Pollan's advice

I'm watching a video from some "keto" influencers on YouTube, and it strikes me as a little weird how much they are pushing various products.

I want to avoid bro-science, and I want to keep the "instructions" for my diet pretty simple.  That is, "avoid starches and sugars."

However, if I was going to add something to that, it would be Michael Pollan's advice to "eat real food".  My dinner of salmon and greenbeans is real food.  Following that up with some kind of bar or cup from some food corporation feels counterproductive.  

You might lose weight eating whatever is the low-carb equivalent of gogurt yogurt tubes (the example Pollan uses as the paragon of processing in his book), but I wouldn't recommend it. 

Zero Sum-ality

Sometimes it feels like the balance between creative work, sleep, gym time, time spent relaxing, and attention to the quality of the diet is some kind of zero sum game.  Add to one part, and the other parts suffer.

It's interesting that not all of those are time-related.  Sleep quality, and the quality of the diet don't really have to do with temporality, so if all of these are zero-sum with each other, then there is some other resource that is being depleted. 

One theory is that it's related to executive function or willpower.  The more energy I spend resisting crap food, the less I have for creative work.

Another theory is that it's related to stress and cortisol.  Creative work, fueled by caffeine, fueled by stress, can create an exhaustion that effects attention to the other areas.  Even short of outright exhaustion, within the span of a day, a creative burst leaves me with nothing left for the gym.

What I will say is that with routine, gym-time and nutrition (even sleep and creative time) become easier.  That's why I shy away from cheat meals or cheat days.  There is something happening in my biology when I become accomodated to, and stay accomodated to a low-carb diet.  Considerations about the diet just become normal, and don't contribute or detract from the zero-sum.  If I were having to constantly reset after intermittantly eating chocolate chip pancakes, it would be a lot harder.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Quick Chicken Quantity Experiment

 I noticed that when I cook dark meat chicken, and use the cajun rub, I inevitably overeat.  One thought is that the rub is addictively salty and spicey.  

I wanted to really understand the quantities though.  When I go to a steakhouse, often a queen cut (6-8oz) along with a salad and vegetable is more than enough.  How much meat was on one of these chicken leg/thigh combinations?

Weighing the meat after cooking it, and then again after I had consumed the edible portions, the number I came up with was 6.6oz per leg/thigh combination.

So... If I eat an entire package in one sitting, I'm eating 26oz of meat.  Chicken is a tiny bit less calorie dense than beef, say by a factor of .85, giving  beef equivalent of 22oz.  That's a pretty big steak, but maybe absent the salad and vegetable it's not so out of range.

I'm pretty consistantly having a problem with ready-to-eat food hanging out in the refrigerator.  Ingredients that I have to cook are not a problem, but I feel like I'm eating the leftovers just because of the immediate availability.  It is true that I attribute a lot of the early weight loss success to eating out nearly all the time, and not having food ready at home.  

This is a good crutch, but I've started to cook for myself.  The answer is probably be more judicous with that cajun rub that I like so much.


My current technique is to break the pack of chicken into two parts.  I got these really easy to handle gallon-sized bags (I hate dealing with plastic wrap and ziplocks), and I just put half of the raw chicken in the freezer.  

When I need it I just put it on a pan in the fridge, and it defrosts overnight.  I do the same thing with breakfast pattys.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Sugar, starch, and anxiety

 For years, at dinner parties, I had to get up from the table and find a quiet corner to deal with my social anxiety.  That was not my experience at a passover seder last night, a few months into a low sugar, low starch diet.  

Maybe it's just getting older, but the experience of this dinner -- the first since going on the nutritional change -- was very different from how I had experienced social gatherings in the past.  I just felt more level and less reactive. More able to just enjoy the gathering of friends and family.

I recommend this podcast by Stanford professor Andrew Huberman on the subject as a start.

Taubes' conclusions in the epilogue of "Good Calories Bad Calorie"

Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes, p453-454

As I emerge from this research, though, certain conclusions seem inescapable to me, based on the existing knowledge:

1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease of civilization.

2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the hormonal regulation of homeostasis--the entire harmonic ensemble of the human body.  The more easily digestible and refined the carbohydrates, the greater the effect on our health, weight, and well-being.

3. Sugars--sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup specifically--are particularly harmful, probably because the combination of fructose and glucose simultaneously elevates insulin levels while overloading the liver with carbohydrates.

4. Through their direct effect on insulin and blood sugar, refined carbohydrates, startches, and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes.  They are the most likely dietary cause of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and the other chronic diseases of civilization.

5. Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating, and not sedentary behavior.

6. Consuming excess calories does not cause us to grow fatter, any more than it causes a child to grow taller.  Expending more energy than we consume does not lead to long-term weight loss; it leads to hunger.

7. Fattening and obesity are caused by an imbalance -- a disequilibrium -- in the hormonal regulation of adipose tissue and fat metabolism.  Fat synthesis and storage exceed the mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue and its subsequent oxidation.  We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverse this balance.

8. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage.  When insulin levels are elevated -- either chronically or after a meal -- we accumulate fat in our fat tissue.  When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and use it for fuel.

9. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity.  The fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be.

10. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.

Movie Recommendation


Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Does this look like food production, or does it look like drug production?


Negging from the dogmatic

Writing from the perspective of confidence that a 40 lb weight loss lends me...

 I come from a family of physicians.  The older ones have been pretty well steeped in the low-fat, calorie reduction dogma.  They look at some of the bolder assertions from those that subscribe to the low-carb approach as quackery.

It's one thing for us to assert that low-carb helps you reduce weight.  However if we go as far as to call Alzheimers potentially "Type 3 diabetes", we get derision.  If we say that  heart disease isn't caused by high cholesterol, but high sugar, we get condescension.  If we say that not only are mental health disorders like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia worsened by the standard American diet, but that it seems possible that some of the discontentment and seeming mental unwellness of society in general might be ascribable to that diet -- well...

Again, I'm looking back to when I first read Taubes' book Good Calories Bad Calories, and wondering how the last 10 (15?) years could have been different.  Wondering what could have been had I not been subject to lectures on fatty-foods-causing-cholesterol while cooking steak dinners.  Wondering about my body and my mind had I not been lectured about  how cooking my chicken thighs in butter because it made me more satiated was not a good idea.

We can't have parents or other medically trained family on pedestals.  They are as fallible as we are, and deserve to be forgiven.  It really just illustrates the power of dogma. 

How to change how you feel about cooking and cleaning up.

 When did I internalize the message that cooking and cleaning up afterwards was some kind of arduous, time-consuming chore?  It takes vastly more time to drive to a restaurant than it does to put a sirloin in the broiler, and a bag of green beans in the microwave.

I come from a pretty eco conscious family.  At one point my dad decided that paper towels were the enemy, and switched his household to cloth towels.  He is probably right, but just purely as a crutch, having a roll of paper towels on hand makes the cleanup a lot easier than the specter of it I had been carrying around.

I wipe the plate into the garbage can, and I don't even have to clean the sink.  A dishwasher makes the final sanitization that much easier.

Some of the problems of low-carb dieting are only problems in the sense that we have an aversion to them:  In another post I talked about how I needed to learn to live with a reduced dynamic range of flavor in meals.  Whole foods being that much less exciting than chocolate chip pancakes.  In cleanup and cooking too, it's not really the time that it takes, or the arduousness of the process, but really just an aversion to it.

Flipping it on its head, if I look at cooking as a pleasure, as a rest activity from the cognitive and stress demands of the day, then it becomes something I look forward to.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Helpful visualization for goal setting


Research definitions of various weight classes [1]: 

Please note that this dataset has historically been created by evaluating white males.  There is good evidence that it a) may be pretty irrelevant entirely when talking about individuals rather than populations, and b) may be pretty well flawed for people who are not white males.

** Unfortunately I don't know the source of the original image.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Really good motivation for eating salads and veggies.

 If you are comparing the taste of salads and veggies to chocolate chip pancakes, then obviously they will loose.  However, if you are comparing life without these fiberous foods to life with them, you may find that you cherish them in other ways.

Image by azmeyart-design.