"A ship in the harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for." William Shedd

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Head, Meet Desk

Look, there is NO WAY I'm going to touch the third rail and talk politics on my blog, but while checking the newz feed yesterday morning I got zapped anyway.  Did any one else notice while watching 'The Debate' that Jeb Bush was looking a lot more svelte? Yeah, me too.  And I thought nothing of it until I saw a headline indicating that Jeb Bush was cheating on his 'paleo diet' while at the Iowa State Fair -- record scratch -- huh? 
It turns out Bush went 'paleo' in December and has lost around 30 pounds - he had to invest in a new wardrobe (been there - paleo is expensive, from a sartorial standpoint - going from a size 12 to a size 2 it seemed every time I bought a pair of pants I loved, they were too big before I could blink twice).  Scrolling through articles I was pretty excited - hey it's like if Oprah went paleo - way to get the word out Jeb!  And then -- repeat record scratch -- he says he's "always hungry" and the resounding themes from the articles I browsed were a) this diet is bad for him, b) this diet is unsustainable, and c) there's a lot of talk about him 'cheating'.  The record was completely destroyed when I started reading comments from an article in NYT, "Jeb Bush is Definitely, Grumpily Running. . . Away from Calories".
Not surprisingly, I have words to say about this; I'll try to limit myself to a few.
First. While I hate the whole "you're doing it wrong" message, I've got to say, dude, if you're hungry, eat more.  The majority of people entering the paleo diet find it much more satiating than their former diet.  In fact, this is the hammer many critics use to bash the paleo diet; because it is so satiating, people spontaneously reduce calories and THIS why the diet works for weight loss.  To which I say, whatever.  If a diet is so satiating that free range humans on said diet spontaneously control their calories without counting or feeling like they're starving themselves, is this not a win? However, we get some hints as to why Bush may be hungry. 
I saw reports in a couple of articles about a meeting at an IHOP in Colorado Springs where Bush was presented with pancakes, eggs, bacon and hash browns - and he didn't eat a bite.  Apparently he doesn't know that eggs and bacon are the darlings of the paleo crowd.  And this relates back to claim b) this diet isn't sustainable.  I'm sure the eggs weren't free-range, and the bacon didn't come from pastured pork, but at some point the perfect paleo is the enemy of the good paleo.  Better to eat those factory farmed bacon and eggs now than to be starving and eat something even farther afield later.  For a variety of reasons - travel, business meetings, finances, we are often faced with less than perfect food selections.  Occasionally the best choice is to skip a meal, or even two.  But the majority of the time, you can figure out something to eat - it doesn't always have to be the perfect organic, pastured fair tied with a perfect paleo bow.
Another look behind the curtain as to why Bush may be hungry comes from a reference to his 'monotonous go-to lunch, salad with grilled chicken'.  Don't get me wrong, I'm the queen of salads; I love throwing some leaves, vegetables and meat in a bowl - easy peasy - through the weekdays, this is also my go-to lunch (and often, dinner).  But these are HEAVY DUTY salads; I use a large bowl, baby kale and baby lettuces (just say no to iceberg lettuce), a variety of vegetables, avocado, kiwi, strawberries - you get the idea.  Almonds, sesame seeds, sometimes a little gorgonzola cheese, a generous dollop of extra virgin olive oil and a generous portion of protein (not a few strips of desiccated grilled chicken breast).  I have to wonder if Bush is trying to implement a Faileo diet. 
A faileo diet, as it is known in the paleosphere, is the low-fat version of the paleo diet; protein goes a long way, but natural dietary fats are your friend.  After decades of indoctrination in the low-fat mantra, this is a concept many of us had a hard time kicking to the curb.  This MMA fighter, Abe Wagner, tried to implement a faileo diet, and he, umm, failed until he made friends with fat.  To quote "Something that didn’t work for me was trying to stay at a 30/30/40 ratio of macro nutrients. Getting 40% of your calories from carbohydrate is A LOT of broccoli and cauliflower when you are as big as I am and eat as much as I do. I was much more successful once I shifted more to about 65/30/15 and started consuming much more fat.  I know a lot of people try this diet out for weight loss purposes and that’s fine and good, but I eat this way because it makes me feel better. It lets me perform better. I hate that it’s a given in our society that to eat “healthy” your food has to taste bad and that to lose weight, you had to be hungry all the time. I eat nothing but delicious real food, lots of it. . ."
To get back to a) this diet is bad for him, a couple of articles trotted out the tired old 'saturated fat is the devil'.  Look, I thought we had already dealt with that nonsense.  Also go here, here and here.  Putting the dead horse of saturated fat aside, what, exactly, is so alarming about eating whole, minimally processed food?  Jebus wept!
Finally, item c) there's a lot of talk about him 'cheating'.  This goes hand-in-hand with the comments section from the NYT article.  Would someone let me in on why eating fried twinkies at a state fair makes you look like 'one of the people', an 'average joe', if you will?  On the one hand, you have people giving you the side-eye if you don't eat whatever is put in front of you (a couple of articles were happy to point out that the chefs as IHOP got their feeling hurt when Bush didn't eat anything on his plate); on the other hand, you have comments on the NYT article along the lines of, 'I would never vote for Chris Christie because he's too fat' and 'hey, Hillary Clinton is hiding a lot of lbs under those expensive pantsuits'.  And then you have the 'move more, eat less/everything in moderation' crowd (the vast majority of which are male and under 30) saying they would never vote for someone who would eat such an 'extreme' diet (again, I ask, what is  so alarming about eating whole, minimally processed food?).

A few commenters on the NYT article intelligently pointed out that discussions about diet and nutrition opens the door to discussions about FDA policies and the current use of agra subsidies, so yay on that front.  And while there were certainly many comments on the NYT article stating that a candidate's weight/dietary choices were irrelevant, and the only thing that really matters are their policies, I was shocked at the number of comments that equated weight and diet with presidential qualifications.  As someone who was a size 2 in my twenties, a size 12 in my thirties, and is currently a size 2 again, I can assure you that my IQ and problem solving abilities are not dependent on my pant size.  Heh, who in their right mind would want to be a politician?

Some day, in the near future, a troop of chipmunks is going to march out of the forest and say "Look, we're taking over. We may have brains the size of walnuts, but even we can do better than this!"

Friday, August 14, 2015

Don't Shoot the Dog

A conversation at work this week about dog 'training' got the mental juices flowing - what is the most effective way to break bad habits?  Or better yet create good habits from bad? 

I have a coworker who has good dogs, but the dogs have a few issues that are essentially bad habits.  There is the old (I mean really old) idea of negative reinforcement - punitive response every time the unwanted behavior is presented - also known as yanking on the leash and yelling 'No' after the dog has already done the unwanted behavior.  And there is the more current idea of behavior shaping and positive reinforcement.  Both get results, but obviously one is considerably less stressful for all involved.
Our canine friends aren't the only ones that develop bad habits, nor are they the only ones that can benefit from more positive methods of changing behavior patterns.  Think how much more pleasant the work environment would be if people were motivated to perform well at their jobs, as opposed to being threatened with punitive measures if they don't perform well.  Imagine how much more successful we would all be if, instead of trying to shame ourselves out of a bad habit, we could feel positive about modifying it into a good habit.  Do you really think elite athletes correct their bad habits by having a coach wave their arms around and scream at them to just 'stop doing it that way'?  Of course not; they use behavior modification to improve their pedal stroke, or racket swing, or back flip.
One of the pioneers in regards to behavior shaping/modification is Karen Pryor.  In her book "Don't Shoot the Dog!" (sadly, not available for e-readers, print copy only) she describes "the  underlying principles of behavioral training and through  numerous fascinating examples reveals how this art  can be applied to virtually any common situation.  And best of all, she tells how to do it without  yelling, threats, force, punishment, guilt trips--or  shooting the dog. 8 methods for putting an end to  all kinds of undesirable behavior. The 10 laws of  "shaping" behavior--for results without strain  or pain. . ."  Believe me, the information is not just valuable for 'training' dogs - over the years I've wished this book was required reading for anyone in a managerial position. 
As always, Mark Sisson has something to say about How to Break Bad Habits, as well as How to Develop Good Habits.  And the current issue of Paleo Magazine has an article about '5 Steps to Crete a New Habit'.  The common theme is to have a strategy; if you really want to break a bad habit, or develop a good habit (or turn a bad habit into a good habit), a little planning is needed, followed by consistently following the plan.
A final note, because I just can't help myself, about dog training.  Sending your dog off to be trained by a 'professional' is akin to hiring a personal trainer to go to the gym and do the workouts for you; if you think you need help, find someone that will work one-on-one with you and your dog together.   And for the love of doG, find someone that is using the current standards of POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT.   Forget all that tired old crap about dominance and submission and blah, blah, blah.  Being at the pack 'alpha' is about leadership - think about the people in your life that you consider to be good leaders - what characteristics make them a good leader in your eyes?  Good leadership isn't about throwing your weight around and shouting "It's my way or the highway!"  One of the best books I've ever read about the human/dog relationship, and what it really means to be leader of the pack, is Bones Would Rain from the Sky  by Suzanne Clothier.
Of course, 'No' is still a useful tool when you're out hiking and your dog is standing over a reeking squirrel carcass getting ready to have a good roll. . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dr. Davis Spanks Moises Velasquez-Manoff at the NYT

A quick post to link to Dr. William Davis' (author of Wheat Belly) rebuttal of the New York Times article, 'The Myth of Big, Bad Gluten'
I think the perfect summation for me comes in from one of the comments on Dr. Davis' post - to paraphrase - "If grains are so great, why do so many people eliminate a litany of health problems when they stop eating grains?" 

And what, exactly is so great about grains in the first place?  There is nothing in grains that you can't get (more of, and in more bioavailable form) from other sources. 
NutrientWhole grainsWhole milkFruitVegetablesSeafoodLean MeatsNuts and Seeds
Vitamin B-12 (µg)0.00 [4]0.58 [5]0.00 [4]0.00 [4]7.42 [7]0.63 [6]0.00 [4]
Vitamin B-3 (mg)1.12 [4]0.14 [1]0.89 [3]2.73 [5]3.19 [6]4.73 [7]0.35 [2]
Phosphorus (mg)90 [3]152 [5]33 [1]157 [6]219 [7]151 [4]80 [2]
Riboflavin (mg)0.05 [2]0.26 [6]0.09 [3]0.33 [7]0.09 [4]0.14 [5]0.04 [1]
Thiamine (mg)0.12 [5]0.06 [1]0.11 [3]0.26 [7]0.08 [2]0.18 [6]0.12 [4]
Folate (µg)10.3 [4]8.1 [2]25.0 [6]208.3 [7]10.8 [3]3.8 [1]11.0 [5]
Vitamin C (mg)1.53 [3]74.2 [5]221.3 [7]93.6 [6]1.9 [4]0.1 [1]0.4 [2]
Iron (mg)0.90 [4]0.08 [1]0.69 [2]2.59 [7]2.07 [6]1.10 [5]0.86 [3]
Vitamin B-6 (mg)0.09 [3]0.07 [1]0.20 [5]0.42 [7]0.19 [4]0.32 [6]0.08 [2]
Vitamin A (RE)2 [2]50 [5]94 [6]687 [7]32 [4]1 [1]2 [3]
Magnesium (mg)32.6 [4]21.9 [2]24.6 [3]54.5 [7]36.1 [6]18.0 [1]35.8 [5]
Calcium (mg)7.6 [2]194.3 [7]43.0 [4]116.8 [6]43.1 [5]6.1 [1]17.5 [3]
Zinc (mg)0.67 [4]0.62 [3]0.25 [1]1.04 [5]7.6 [7]1.9 [6]0.6 [2]
Sum rank score44444881655038
For the full reference on the above table go to Robb Wolf's 'Paleo vs. Standard American Diet'.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Birthday

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Portable Pain Relief

Yep, haven't been on the net much lately; this is the time of year where obsession meets desire and . . . I go mountain biking (heh!). 
Thanks to my mom for test driving the Icy Hot Smart Therapy TENS unit.  TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machines work by sending stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands. These pulses help prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.  They also help stimulate your body to produce higher levels of its own natural painkillers.  The Icy Hot units work pretty well, and certainly DO provide pain relief; portably and reasonably priced.  The batteries need to be replaced fairly often if you use these regularly at all, so you may want to buy some replacement batteries at the get go.  You can find them in most pharmacies and grocery stores.  On the other hand, these units are a bit big for small(er) areas, like the shoulder, which is where I really wanted some relief.  I found this mini on Amazon and have so far been quite pleased.  Of course, there are many, many other TENS unit options out there, with programmable cycles, bigger/better power, and remote controls.  If you are suffering from joint pain/back pain, for whatever reason, these personal TENS units are worth a look. . .

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Things that make you go, hmmmm?

A few million years ago, after my diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis, and before paleo was even a glimmer in my eye, I briefly supplemented with Knox gelatin.  Gelatin was touted by some as a great supplement for arthritis; as a precursor to cartilage, gelatin could help the body to repair joint damage and also keep damage from occurring in the first place.  It was one of many things I tried, used for a while, and mentally filed away with a reaction of, meh.
Years later, as bone broth, with it's healthy dose of gelatin, became touted within the paleosphere, my ears perked up.  I went online and bought some traditional (i.e. slow-simmered), grass-fed beef bone broth and gave it a try.  Soothing and yummy, but expensive - and storing enough to have just a cup a day for a month at a time in my tiny freezer was a pain.  I found myself repeatedly putting off ordering either due to the cost, or because the freezer situation was already at critical mass, so my use of bone broth was intermittent at best.  Maybe I'll eventually get over my fear of leaving a crock-pot simmering with the dogs home alone and regularly make my own bone broth.  But until then. . . with the possible benefits of gelatin for joint health as well as other possible benefits, I thought maybe I should try gelatin again.  I ordered some Great Lakes gelatin (it can be ordered through Amazon); I chose the whole protein gelatin rather than the hydrolyzed gelatin as it 'may' be better for gut health. 
And here's were it may get interesting for those in ketosis. 
My ketones, as measured by urine test strips, while consistently in the medium and high ranges early on, have been low for a while, sometimes fading away to 'nothing'.  While I'm aware that this was likely just normal sign of keto-adaptation, I still kind of responded with grrrrr every morning when I looked at my test strip.  A few days after I started supplementing with gelatin, my 'peetones' shot up into the medium/high range again and these levels have persisted for almost three weeks - now my response when I look at my test strip in the morning is, hmmm? 
The only thing I could find on a quick google search for 'gelatin ketosis' was this thread on reddit (I know, it's reddit, but still).  From the post:
"Gelatin which is made up of collagen and proteins from organ/skin/bone of animals contains glycine. Glycine in turn promotes glucagon to be released from the pancreas. Glucagon is the opposite of insulin, it tells fat cells to release fat (dumbed down version)."
Again, hmmm?  In the interest of 'science', I received my Great Lakes gelatin and started taking it (approximately one tablespoon per day) the same week as the local trails finally dried out and I was able to start mountain biking again.  Mountain biking, especially with the hilly trails in St. Louis area, can be a pretty high intensity, full body work out.  Obviously, exercise can affect ketosis, but I would expect the affect to wax and wane from day to day, as I'm not able to mountain bike every day.  The past week has essentially been a bust for mountain biking (ok, let's be honest, for exercise, period), and yet my ketones are still in the medium/high range every morning.
In any event, an interesting observation I wanted to share. . . I'll update regarding this, and any positive affects on those last stubborn five pounds, in the future. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Blood Work

Edited to correct HDL reference range and add footnotes found in my blood work results - apparently someone was too impatient to get out and mountain bike and forgot to check their work :)

So, in my last post I mentioned the 'helpful' email I received from my insurance company *rolls eyes*; they are so 'helpful' that they are now requiring you to meet their health standards score to save money on your insurance premiums.  You are scored based on your blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, glucose, triglycerides and tobacco use status; if you do not meet a minimum target score, or improve your score next year, your premiums go up.  My indignation over this Big Brother approach and whether it is reasonable, is fodder for another time; I thought some might be interested my blood work as a real life long term paleo/low-carber (sorry, I've only got the last two years on hand). . . 
For context - my diet has been 'paleo' for over seven years now, low carb-ish without carb counting; I've entered my diet into FitDay randomly over the years to see where all the values were falling out, but my diet is pretty consistent, so I don't track day-to-day.  Last fall (again, for context after my 2014 blood work) I made some minor changes in my diet to shift into nutritional ketosis, confirmed via urine test strips - or, as I saw in a comment the other day, measuring my peetones - heh!  Slightly less protein and slightly more fats, primarily from avocado, macadamias, coconut oil and butter; no significant changes in my produce consumption, as I was already fairly low-carb. 
As for exercise, at the same time that I started a paleo diet, I started weight lifting again.  My experience is that weight lifting is VERY beneficial for my rheumatoid arthritis - likely every bit as crucial as diet; in a future post, I'll discuss more. . .  I started out with pretty low weights, but seven years later, I am lifting literally three times as much weight as I was in the beginning (woot!); lifting sessions are typically 20-30 minutes in duration.  I also started mountain biking again about four years ago.  I ride or lift, on average, four to five days a week.  In the deep winter, when the local trails are trashed due to weather, I mostly lift with an occasional ride here and there when the ground is frozen solid.  In the summer, I mostly ride, with one or two weight lifting sessions a week.    Also, I'd like to note for anyone interested, in shifting my diet toward nutritional ketosis I did not experience any noticeable difference in my exercise performance. 
On to the numbers! 
Total Cholesterol
2014        2015          Reference Range
186          198            100-199
2014        2015           RR
87            108             0-99
2014        2015           RR
17            11                5-40
2014       2015            RR
82           79                greater than 59
T. Chol./HDL Ratio
2014       2015           RR
2.3          2.5              0.0-4.4
2014        2015         RR
86            54             0-149
2014        2015         RR
101          103           65-99
Hemoglobin A1c
2014        2015         RR
5.4           5.5            4.8-5.6

Footnotes found in my blood work:

**According to ATP-III Guidelines, HDL-C greater than 59 mg/dL is considered a negative risk factor for CHD (coronary heart disease).

**T.Chol./HDL Ratio
    CHD Risk
    1/2 Average Risk    Men-3.4   Women-3.3
          Average Risk    Men-5.0   Women-4.4
    2X Average Risk    Men-9.6   Women-7.1

**Hemoglobin A1c
    Increased risk for diabetes:  5.7 - 6.4
    Diabetes:  greater than 6.4
So, I'm thrilled with the lower triglyceride and VLDL numbers.  HDL is still nicely in the very high numbers, keeping my Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio low.  The LDL is outside of the lab reference range, but still below the lower target number of 130 used by the insurance company, so I wasn't penalized for that; it's a shame that they don't include HDL or the Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio in their scoring.  I was penalized for having high blood glucose.  I'm not terribly thrilled with the glucose number, although such numbers are not unusual for those who are very low carb (VLC) and/or in nutritional ketosis.  Peter, Mark and Robb have all blogged about this phenomena. 

It is my understanding that this can be 'fixed' by eating a more moderate carbohydrate diet for a short period, which could be a strategy for next year's blood work to ensure I stay within the insurance company's target score and don't end up getting nailed with higher premiums.  I'm well within the overall target score this year, so there's that. . . On the other hand, I would have expected the A1c number to be a bit lower, and the elevated blood glucose still gives me the willies. . . I know Dr. Terry Wahls advocates a ketogenic diet for a variety of reasons - time to reread that section of her book and confirm whether I want to continue with nutritional ketosis or drop back to my 'normal' low-carb paleo diet. 

In any case, Happy Spring all!  The local trails are finally in good shape and although the weather isn't quite so warm as last weekend, the sun is out - I'm off to ride!