Read time: 30 seconds

No matter what our diet philosophy is (there are many), studying various viewpoints can allow us to make better decisions to improve our health and wellness. Here’s a wonderful interview with Marion Nestle regarding her book, Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics. Her view point isn’t so much personal as it is a collection of data points. Fascinating.

Marion Nestle’s Interview on KQED

It’s about 50 minutes long but every second is worth listening to. Those who have read The Saloon for a while know that my simple approach to eating, and everything I’ve written about regarding diet, closely matches what Nestle has to say.

Hope everyone is well!

Link | Posted on by | 15 Comments

Intermittent Fasting, Liberate Your Life

Read Time: 2 minutes

Quiet, but Not Gone

Well, what can I say?

The radio-silence has been long enough that I almost forgot the URL to this blog. But I haven’t forgotten you, readers of the saloon.

Neither have I forgotten the multidimensional benefits of intermittent fasting.

Intermittent Fasting and the Tight Schedule

Intermittent fasting helped grease the journey through one of the busiest periods of my life: becoming a father to a lovely baby girl who brings with her incredible joy, new responsibility, and chronic sleep deficit. And a major work change.

Intermittent Fasting, Anytime

Some people warn that intermittent fasting is contraindicative during periods of stress and/or sleep deficit, because it adds more stress to a body that’s already under stress, resulting in health degradation and increased body fat, especially that around the abdomen.

But such warning may underestimate the body’s dynamic complexity and adaptive capacity. Stressors, whether those of the chronic or acute kinds, may cause adaptive changes in varying physical localities for systemic balance. There may be check-and-balance mechanisms and complexity we’ve yet to understand.

Intermittent Fasting and Recent Personal Experiences

Through my own period of stress and sleep deficit, intermittent fasting has helped manage my body weight and kept my body fat low, and it helped to preserve my optimal health (mentally and physically).

Intermittent fasting effectively removes much of the physical and mental stress associated with constant eating, meal preparation, eating schedule, and “eating dependency.” Also, the reduction in eating frequency probably decreased post-prandial stress, the inflammation occurring after meal consumption.

Intermittent Fasting and “The Important Things In Life”

This is not a bragging right nor is it something to be proud of: life has been busy and time is a premium. Every morning, before the storm of a new day, I take a quiet moment to watch my daughter sleep, breathing her tiny breaths, and then I bend to kiss her gently before I’m off to work.

Intermittent fasting removes the obsession that is breakfast — and all its preparation and mindless eating over the day’s incoming emails — and gives me a calm moment to breath in the soft focus that is my sleeping daughter.

During the day, a tight schedule can be made tighter with morning snacks and lunch, which are invariably mindless eating-on-the-run. Instead of the arbitrarily scheduled eating bouts most people subscribe to, I’m able to touch base and interact with colleagues for the “human side” of work.

Not being a slave to scheduled meals liberates time for mundane things, like email replies and daily projects, so that when I come home, I’m a husband and a father.

On weekends, freedom from the traditional eating schedule and the knowledge that there’s no physical harm or starvation of not eating also facilitates family time and a care-free day. It’s what the weekend is for.

Dylan, at 5 months:

Intermittent Fasting, Liberate Your Life

Intermittent fasting represents the freedom to chose and to live. You can chose to adopt intermittent fasting as part of a lifestyle; you can chose to fast on any given day of the week, or every day; you can chose to do other things instead of eat; or you can chose to eat when it really counts.

Intermittent fasting is liberation.

Posted in Dietary Habit | Tagged | 43 Comments

Thanksgiving and The Freedom of Choice

Read time: 1 minute

Thanksgiving painting by Norman Rockwell

Quick note on Thanksgiving to readers of The Lean Saloon.

As the turkey takes on its last few minutes of sun tanning in the oven, I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Most of us have in our lives the people for whom we’re grateful and the things for which we’re thankful. The first Thanksgiving in November of 1621 was in celebration of the Pilgrim’s survival of hardship, malnutrition and starvation, and also of the kindness of the American Natives for their gifts of food.

Today, on the night of Thanksgiving, we still have many things to give thanks to, including the way American history unfolded itself and all the Americans along the way since 1621… especially those who fought for the freedom for us to sit and enjoy the food on our table tonight, the freedom that gives us the opportunity to make choices in the kind of food we eat the other 364 days of the year.

Remember, each time we sit down at the table to eat, we sit down with that freedom to make choices of what we put into our bodies. For tonight, and for the rest of the year.

Eat well, live well. Happy Thanksgiving.

Posted in Dietary Habit | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Put on The Shoes and Do The Work

Read time: 3 minutes

If you are, or have been, as overweight as I used to be, then you know the insatiable feeling even after a full meal.

A new study shows that obese people fail to activate their “will power centers,” the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which inhibit the drive to eat. Further, postprandial (post-eating) blood sugar activates the PFC and ACC in order to stop cravings, but this fails to happen in obese subjects, leaving them with less will power against further consumption.

It’s well-known that low blood sugar naturally stimulates the thalamic and hypothalamic regions to activate the drive to eat, thus promoting survival. After eating, however, the natural increase in blood sugar deactivates this drive while stimulating the PFC and ACC to return will power against further cravings.

This study demonstrates that postprandial blood sugar and the insulin response trigger satiety in lean people (yes, insulin triggers satiety) but fail to do so in the obese. It appears that, even after eating, the obese cannot turn on the PFC and ACC to inhibit food craving. In fact, in the obese, the very regions that drive food craving fail to deactivate.

What’s interesting — and what’s important in our culture — is the relationship between blood sugar and external food cues. It seems lean people are more sensitive to external food cues only when their blood sugar is low, while overweight people are sensitive to external food cues when blood sugar is low or normal. In other words, obese people have lower will power agains external food cue, regardless of blood sugar.

This speaks volume about our culture’s obesogenic environment. There’s food everywhere, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is one of the contributing factors.

Cyber Space Pseudo-Science

The differences in mechanisms between the lean and the obese are not well understood in serious science, yet if you suspend yourself long enough in cyber space you’ll read claims to all kinds of theories and hypothesis at war against each other. And this unnecessary war has left the world in weight-loss chaos.

The reality is that no one in the area of obesity truly has a single patent on causality. 100 experts will give you 101 reasons. And they’re probably all correct to a degree.

At the risk of sounding guru-esque, I’ll throw in my small, common-sense list of reasons for overweight or its perpetuation, with the stance that overweight is actually a multivariable phenomenon with endless contributors. But, for brevity, a few reasons for the flab:

  • Food availability and abundance
  • Low-quality, low-cost ingredients
  • Commercial, social, and familial pressure to eat
  • Conditioned belief and perception of eating
  • Diminished demand for continuous movement (total 24-hour energy expenditure)

The Typical Environment

Most of us dedicate an entire room in our homes to store food; in fact, in America, the primary living-space to consider when buying a home is the kitchen. Shopping malls dedicate an entire wing to food. Cities and towns dedicate entire blocks to food.

Commercial food enterprises enjoy profits that are proportional to their sales of cheap calories. Many of us have an instinct to get the most food for the lowest dollar, with buffets, super-sizing, and $1.99 flap-jacks leading the way.

Many of us believe we must eat all day because our body is incapable of using stored calories, and we must eat seconds and thirds because there’s a famine lurking behind the Golden Arches and beyond the food court.

And there are those of us who will use reasons of metabolic disorder, genetic deviation, or evil food groups to avoid the actual work required for self-improvement and to maintain the status quo of excess flab and diminishing health.

Put on The Shoes and Do the Work

Look, no one understands why the obese cannot inhibit their food craving, and one more study won’t change the fact that, if we want to lose weight, we’ll still have to put on our shoes and do the work. We know what that work is and I’ve been saying it here for a couple of years now.

To lose weight, find a way to eat less. Chose mostly quality, whole, real ingredients. Stock your kitchen differently. Stay away from food court. Allow yourself to enjoy a delicious desert here and there. Find a diet that you can live with for the rest of your life, without becoming socially maladjusted, or a militant.

Sustainability will get you there… and keep you there. Intermittent fasting helps.

Posted in Dietary Habit | Tagged | 27 Comments

The Latest and Greatest Bullshit in Exercise Equipment

Read time: 4 minutes

Almost all exercise machines will provide an activity far superior to what a couch can give you. Having said this, many equipment manufacturers make claims that serve only to prey on the uninformed, effectively spreading more misinformation to create a population of missinformed consumers. Nothing bothers me more.

In the video below, featuring the Jacobs Ladder (likely produced by the maker itself), you can see the claims made with grossly inaccurate soundbites.

Click on the video section at 1:10 to hear their claims of benefits. And below are point-by-point analysis.

Jacobs Ladder video promotion

The claims in red:

“It puts the user’s back at a 45 degree position, therefore placing the spine at a more neutral position.” 

A 45-degree position has nothing to do with a neutral spine, which can be achieved at nearly any angle. It’s a meaningless claim.

“Since the user is in a positive climbing motion, the Jacobs Ladder workout has very little impact on hip, knee, and ankle joints that are susceptible to wear and injury.”

Impact has nothing to do with increased wear and injury, as the body is designed to withstand and thrive on impact (it is bad technique in any exercise that predisposes the user to injury). Impact is an essential stimulus to musculoskeletal and joint health, and the removal of normal impact can result in diminishing strength and integrity of these structures. If this 1980s myth were true, then we need to remove dancing, walking and most form of natural, earthly movement from humans.

 “The ladder rungs are spaced 12 inches apart, forcing the user to use a full range of motion.”

12 inches of limb movement is hardly full range of motion, so this claim is an outright lie. Here are normal values in range of motion for the hip:

Hip flexion: 120 degrees
Hip extension:  30 degrees
Total range of movement: 150 degrees

Hip Abduction:  45 degrees
Hip Adduction:  20 degrees
Total range of movement:  65 degrees

Hip internal rotation: 45 degrees
Hip external rotation:  35 degrees
Total range of hip rotation:  80 degrees

The shoulder joint, naturally more flexible than the hip joint, has even greater range of motion. I won’t go into how false the claim made in this video is in regard to the shoulder joint, but you can click here to see for yourself that a “12-inch ladder spacing” fails to achieve a range of motion value anywhere close to what the shoulder joint can and should achieve in exercise.

The point is that the Jacob Ladder works the body in a restricted range of motion while many other methods and modality can achieve much greater range of motion while still providing the same or greater musculoskeletal and metabolic demand.

“The close-chain motion of the upper body recruits core stabilization muscle groups to simulate function and to provide strong exercise in the rehabilitation of the back, shoulder and lower body injuries.” 

The concept of close-chain mechanics here is miss-used. The motion demonstrated on the ladder is actually a combination of open- and close-chain, but the true definition of each also depends on load and what’s occurring at the other end of the kinetic chain, the feet. This is just meaningless mumbo jumbo to confuse the consumers into thinking something magical is happening. Any exercise, done in the right phases of recovery and with appropriate technique and proper progression, can provide a powerful rehabilitative tool. Effective rehabilitation involves many important variables such as: isolation activation, isometric stabilization, dynamic integration, multi-planar motion, variable acceleration, and variable load patterns.

In other words, the Jacobs Ladder is only one tool for rehabilitation — but considering its size, cost, and restricted use of motor patterns, it is probably not the most efficient, cost-effective, or even the best tool for rehab or for meaningful “core” stabilization — as there are numerous other exercises and methods requiring only basic equipment that can accomplish almost all of the above variables.

“The unit is self-paced, ensuring that the user is neither underworked or overworked.”

Almost any exercise can be self-paced. That’s just inherent — it’s like claiming that an apple is cholesterol free. Today’s smart consumers are more sophisicated than this… it’s generally the desperate consumer that seems to hear magic in these claims. (I hope for fewer desperate consumers and more informed consumers.)

“…The Jacobs Ladder (is) an excellent tool for training athletes, aerobically or anaerobically.”

I haven’t seen an athete that must climb a ladder for any duration, but yes, the Jacobs Ladder is a good way to train the aerobic and anaerobic systems. There are, however, numerous, superior methods that train the same systems to the same intensity, simply for their efficiency at providing significantly more adaptable variables — such as maximum and relative power output, selective speed of movement, real-life acceleration, greater range of motion, multiple planes of motion, greater metabolic output, and improved muscular, cardiorespiratory and metabolic endurance, all of which support athletic performance.

“The Jacobs Ladder… raises the user’s heart rate into the target zones faster than almost any other cadio piece on the market today.”

It’s not a matter of “cardio pieces” or machines that raise the heart rate quickly but a matter of physical output of the exerciser. Raising the heart rate can be achieved with an 8-pound medicine ball, a kettlebell, or just the body weight alone. It’s a matter of knowing what to do.

One certainly does not need a $4,000 machine for which you’d have to wait in line forever to get your turn at an overcrowded “health” club. There are more accessible exercises and methods that offer superior physiological effects, for much less footprint and dollar amount, and possessing greater movement freedom.

Posted in Exercise and Physical Activities | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Pregnancy, Paleo(ish), and Intermittent Fasting

Read time: 3 minutes

Lori and Baby

A few posts back I mentioned that my wife and I are expecting. Lori’s pregnancy is at 39 weeks now, which means our hospital bags are packed, the gas tank is full, and I’ve got the driving route to the hospital so memorized that it’s all I dream about.

In this post I write about Lori’s journey as it relates to her diet, her “modified” intermittent fasting, and her usual exercise routine.

Pregnancy in Later Life

I’m in my early 40s and Lori’s 38. At this stage in life, fertility is generally a concern. And if the woman manages to become pregnant, doctors group her pregnancy into the high-risk pregnancy category.

All this, of course, is based on statistics. But we also knew the stats are based on factors that can be controlled, especially in pregnancy where nutrition and lifestyle have a significant influence.

So even before we attempted to make a baby, Lori implemented a diet I’ve promoted for years — mostly whole, real food. This simply means she generally eats food that’s closest to its natural physical state.

In particular, she minimized (but not eliminated) refined food. This means she ate very little grain-based food, such as bread, pasta, etc, even if labeled “whole grains.” Here she followed the Paleo principles of avoiding phytotoxins such as lectin and anti-nutrients like phytates, found in un-sprouted, un-soaked grains, legumes and nightshade vegetables.

We are not, and have never been, militant about the Paleo diet. We still enjoy non-Paleo items, just in reasonable amounts. The primary key has been for Lori to consume nutritious food and to avoid excessive weight gain.

Nothing has changed from what The Lean Saloon has been promoting.

Intermittent fasting

I haven’t seen studies proving short-term fasting (~12 to 18 hours) is dangerous to the mother and fetus, and there are countless case reports throughout history of women fasting for religious reasons and yet experiencing successful full-term births to babies that grow into healthy, normal adults.

I’ve searched through the literature on short-term fasting and pregnancy, concluding ultimately there’s no concern for us, and that the best plan was for Lori to listen to her body.

And perhaps the greatest benefit she gained from her prior experience with intermittent fasting was learning to let go of an arbitrary eating schedule and the stress and obsession that typically come with one. She eats mostly whole, real food and she eats whenever she feels hungry.

Exercise

She exercises twice a week, each time doing a combination of strength training and some metabolic conditioning. On other days she just moves around a lot. She and I walk often to our favorite coffee house, Philz, to sit in their outdoor patio, enjoying the sun and a good cup of coffee (yes, Lori drank quality coffee throughout her pregnancy).

Her exercise in summary: she lifts some weight, she elevates her heart rate for short spurts, she walks a lot, she moves around. She is definitely not obsessive with working out.

What has been Lori’s experience?

  • At her age, Lori was quite fertile — got pregnant super easy. (Because we ate the same diet, I probably remained happily fertile, too.)
  • Her glucose tolerance tests were consistently perfect — zero sign of gestational diabetes
  • Her urine tests (at every doctor’s appointment) showed normal proteins, etc.
  • Blood tests, heart rate, blood pressure, etc., always well within normal limits
  • Fetal growth and stats were consistently normal
  • Fetal heart rate was consistently within normal range
  • All ultrasound sessions could not make the doctor any happier
  • Lori has not experienced the common negative symptoms of pregnancy, such as morning sickness, cravings
  • She has not exhibited the negative physical changes commonly observed in pregnancy, such as swelling, varicose veins, mood swings, etc

Life as Normal

Perhaps the most liberating part of the experience was that Lori experienced physical “normalcy.” (I would not be so presumptuous as to write this post without Lori’s personal account.)

For Lori there has been no strange cravings. Her maternal weight gain has been well within normal. She experienced absolutely no fatigue. She moves like she’s not even pregnant. I often suspect that she’s hiding a medicine ball under her shirt.

As of this writing, Lori is 3 centimeters dilated, yet today we walked a couple of miles at Stanford Shopping Center, enjoying the sun, the beautiful weather, and even shared a small cup of Hagen Daz ice cream.

A wonderful afternoon.

Perhaps we ought to knock on wood, as there’s still the big moment to come. As such, our hospital bags are packed. I think Lori’s had enough of the baby’s roundhouse kicks to her bladder.

Conclusion

I’m not claiming that a Paleo(ish) diet and intuitive intermittent fasting made Lori’s pregnancy smooth sailing, but her pregnancy is a reflection of how a healthy body can support the rigor of pregnancy.

And we all already know what to do to create a healthy body.

Posted in Dietary Habit, Exercise and Physical Activities | Tagged , | 24 Comments

Chew. Enjoy.

Read time: 30 seconds

I’ve been a little caught up with other things but I plan to update this blog intermittently with links to articles that are relevant to the message The Lean Saloon has delivered for over two years.

Overweight and obesity have many causes, much of which relating to eating habits, including mindless shoveling of food into our mouths and not remember even eating it.

Slow down. Chew. Enjoy the food.

Don’t let life go by so quickly. Including food.

Posted in Dietary Habit | Tagged | 7 Comments